Most people will already know that the Saxonvale site now belongs to Mendip District Council, which is good news and should finally give Frome its “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to develop this land.
For too many years Saxonvale has been an embarrassing eyesore in the centre of town and now at last we have some real hope of moving forward. Frome Town Council owns 1.4 acres of land on Saxonvale and if this is combined with Mendip’s acquisition the total land mass creates some exciting possibilities. We could see new community facilities like a town square, a riverside walkway and connecting footbridges, new green spaces and infrastructure.
Across the country, large-scale urban renewal projects have been transforming neglected parts of towns and cities for years – there are lots of good and bad examples out there. We all want to see affordable housing and decent services for example, but we need a quality outcome. I really hope that the huge pressure on Mendip to maximise their revenue does not lead to just another bog standard high-density residential scheme with no shops, offices, community facilities, or spaces for arts and leisure activities – the things that really do make Frome special and a great place to live.
In my humble opinion, it will be the quality of the street scenes, the open spaces, the river corridor, pedestrian links to the rest of town, and the mixture of night and daytime use, that will determine the success or failure of Saxonvale. If it all gets demolished in 30 years time, then the developers will have failed.
This is a significant moment for the town’s community. Decisions made now will impact on future generations. If Mendip can create a meaningful sense of place then people will look after it, take ownership of it and embrace it.