If I have learned one thing over the last four years it’s that visionary plans for town centres rarely seem to please everyone. For each plan there are some people who love it, others who hate it and plenty who sit somewhere in between. As the saying goes, “you can’t please all the people all of the time”.
Way back in 2015, Frome was awarded the prestigious “Great Town Award’ by the Academy of Urbanism (AoU). The AoU work with places to identify and reinforce their strengths, and help them recognise and overcome obstacles to greater success.
The 2015 AoU report said, “The town compares extremely favourably with neighbouring small towns where the local retailing has been badly affected by the introduction of too many multiples.” It went on to say, “Despite Frome not being a picture postcard town with its rough edges and run-down areas, its social diversity is well catered for by the variety of amenities and retail offers.”
But with new pressures on the high street and key developments at the planning stage plus changes already implemented (Town Hall and Boyle’s Cross) is Frome still a “Great Town?”
On Saturday 4th May I will be meeting with a group of “Young Urbanists” from the AoU who will be returning to Frome to see how things have progressed since the original assessment.
The visitors will hear about Frome Town Council’s work and aspirations for the future. A walk through the town will include a visit to the new recording studio at the Cheese and Grain, a look at the Welshmill Hub and Silk Mill and a briefing on the Saxonvale plans from designers at Nash Partnership.
Four years on then, what will the AoU make of Frome now? Constructive criticism is never a bad thing – but my fingers are still crossed.