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Latest from the Chamber – 21st February 2024

Frome Town Council’s meeting on 21st February focused on improvement, in various ways and with varying views. Safety and sustainability were key themes in the discussions about the upcoming Safer School Streets trial, work on town centre improvements, and staffing in the Environment and Resilience team. There was also a report about planned improvement work at Badgers Hill stadium, ahead of a planning application to build new changing and community facilities there.

Adam Boyden and Dawn Denton, two of the county councillors for Frome, spoke to the meeting after a gruelling eight-hour Somerset Council meeting on Tuesday 20th February. The county council’s budget was passed, avoiding a Section 114 and effective bankruptcy, but confirming an expected £100 million in cuts and savings, which will impact many services across Somerset, including CCTV provision, maintenance of green spaces and public toilets, among other things. Cllr Boyden asked FTC for an update on the progress of conversations with Somerset Council about taking on some of these services at a local level.

Cllr Max Wide welcomed the avoidance of a Section 114 but stated that talks are taking too long and information sharing and action were lacking. He urged Cllr Boyden to do what he could at county level to get the conversation moving so that town and parish councils like Frome could start to make good on their promises to mitigate the impact of the cuts using an increased yield in council tax at town level. Town Clerk Paul Wynne agreed that the conversations were active and open, with everyone wanting to talk, but that progress needed to improve now cuts were confirmed and taking effect from 31st March.

Next up, Economic Development and Regeneration Manager Peter Wheelhouse and Resilience Project Officer Katie Fraser updated the meeting about the Safer School Streets trial, due to begin in the school summer term. By implementing timed road closures, improved crossings, 20mph zones, and other measures, the goal is for children to be able to walk and cycle more safely. Community consultation showed that most residents support the scheme, as do the schools involved, and that the data from some of the 400  School Streets zones in the UK show a positive impact in terms of safety and active travel, with associated environmental benefit.

Ali Mathieson, a local childminder and resident of one of the zones, praised the team’s hard work and acknowledged the project’s good intentions, but shared some opposing thoughts about the scheme and its application in Frome, a much smaller town than many cities that operate School Streets zones. As part of the conversation that followed, Peter Wheelhouse confirmed that plans are progressing for new pedestrian crossings on The Butts and Broadway, which would increase safety of people travelling to school and navigating the town.

Road safety was a continuing theme as Cllr Nick Dove gave an update on the plans for town centre improvements. The location of existing crossings is an ongoing matter of concern for the sub-committee of Nick Dove, Lisa Merryweather, Mel Usher and Sara Butler-Bartholomew, who continue to liaise with Somerset Council to try to achieve crossings by The George Hotel and the bottom of Stony Street. Shop occupancy remains above the national average and positive meetings are ongoing with local businesses about working together to improve the appearance of the town.

Cllr Nick Dove praised FTC’s town centre ranger Mike for work done to date, which has been popular with local business owners. Street cleansing remains within Somerset Council’s remit, and Cllr Dawn Denton urged FTC to be vigilant in documenting issues to ensure a clear picture of the contract’s effectiveness.

Economic Development and Regeneration Manager Peter Wheelhouse asked the council to approve a motion to recruit a new Climate Action Lead, to replace Resilience Manager Nikki Brain, who left FTC in November. A new line management structure within the existing senior staff team, to ensure the new role could be creative and proactive, and the creation of the new Climate Action Lead role, were proposed and passed by council.

The date for the next full council meetings was set as Wednesday 13th March.

Watch the full meeting on YouTube

23 February 2024
Last Updated
23 February 2024
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