Chair Councillor Gary Collinson welcomed everyone to the latest Town Matters Committee meeting and asked for any comments or questions for those attending.
A member of the public said that he visits Frome often and regularly shows visitors from aboard what a lovely town Frome is. He asked if there could be more seating and greenery by Boyles Cross if possible. Councillor Mel Usher thanked him for his comments and explained that he too would like to see this. Mel said that once Phase 2 of the scheme for the centre of the town – improving bus stops and pedestrian access – was complete more seating and greenery would be looked at. Encouraging more people to use the area was the priority and Mel said that market stalls and events are welcome and that we are working with Mendip to make it an easier and quicker process.
Frome Community Education, set up by volunteers in 2011 as a response to limited adult education locally, has a multi-year agreement with Frome Town Council and were invited to give an update on their work. Sue and Sandy explained the impact the funding has had in enabling them to offer a drop-in class for anyone who needs support using computers as well as literacy classes for people who have difficulties with reading and writing. Councillor Kate Bielby added that she thought that this was a great example of what we should be supporting in our community. You can find out more about Frome Community Education here.
Next up, Cllr Jean Boulton, Charlie Orr (Project Officer) and Peter Wheelhouse (Economic Development & Regeneration Manager) gave an overview of the results of the Frome Town Centre Economic Survey for 2017. The report, which is done each year with People and Places, uses different surveys to find out how residents, businesses and visitors feel about the town. This year Frome College Students also completed a similar mapping project alongside.
The highlights include a 3% shop vacancy rate compared to national at 15% and regional at 24%, and a 26% growth in people travelling more than 30 miles to reach the town. The less positive aspect was that both residents and businesses considered car parking charges and the state of the car parks to be a negative issue, with many calling for free or lower cost parking.
The 30 plus people in the room then split into three groups to discuss the results and share their ideas about improving the town centre experience for both visitors and residents, strengthening links between young people and businesses for example through the new apprenticeship page, and in a changing environment how we can help local businesses to future proof. Find out more about the business support available here.
The meeting finished by looking at the latest community grants round. The Grants Advisory Panel had received 8 applications totalling £15,685 and with a rough budget of £8,300 to spend this round have recommended that 6 are awarded funding. The applications not approved will be given feedback, advice, support and training as needed. You find out more about the ways we can support community groups, charities, social enterprise and community interest companies here.