Last month, on 24th November councillors and members of the planning board led a town wide discussion on Selwood Garden Community. A number of questions were raised by residents which Frome Town Council offered to report back to the local community on. The following has come from Matthew Kendrick at Grassroots Planning, with input from LVA, the land agents.
1. Will work be given to local builders or do LVA already have designated developers and builders in your hands? How do LVA plan to manage this when you’ve never done anything on this scale?
“No developers have been selected at this stage, LVA were selected by the Landowners because they wanted to take a holistic approach to the development of the site as a whole, set a binding framework for the sites development and then developers of individual phases would be selected on the basis of their ability to comply with the established framework – developers who can’t comply (for example ones who will only use standard house types) won’t be able to take parcels on. Some objectors last week outlined that they thought a PLC developer would be better suited to take the site forward at outline stage, as opposed to LVA, but that is not correct – a housing developer would be interested in one thing, delivering houses, they would not give the same attention to the community hub, employment space and other infrastructure – it is far better to have a master promoter for the site who deals with all these issues and various different land uses as a whole. LVA are dealing with strategic sites of a similar scale at Cranbrook, Clyst Honiton and Nailsea, they are greatly experienced in such projects as is the consultant teams they use.
Please also bear in mind that irrespective of which developers take forward various parcels they will predominately employ local tradespeople, providing a large number of jobs in construction for 14-15 years. While calculating exactly the number of jobs is not an exact science the Socio-Economic Chapter of the ES sets out a range of data sources and evidence in respect to this, and concludes that between 290-375 jobs would be created/sustained every year over the 14-year build programme. We have been working with Wessex for more than a year on this issue and they have a dedicated team that have prepared the engineering proposals that will provide sewage infrastructure. We have allowed for this to be delivered in the first phases of development and the works will be paid for by the development. Wessex raise no objection to the scheme because of this.”
2. Given the level of sewage currently going into the River Frome, how certain is it that this development will not make this situation worse? Has Wessex Water been challenged?
From Grassroots Planning: “We have been working with Wessex for more than a year on this issue and they have a dedicated team that have prepared the engineering proposals that will provide sewage infrastructure. We have allowed for this to be delivered in the first phases of development and the works will be paid for by the development. Wessex raise no objection to the scheme because of this.”
From Wessex Water: “The impact of new development is assessed by our engineers. Under legislation development is not permitted to lead to a deterioration in sewerage services; this means that development through the per property infrastructure charge will contribute to improvement schemes (where needed) to maintain the status quo. Wessex Water is planning to undertake sewer improvement works to accommodate all the additional foul sewerage flows generated by the proposed garden community in Frome. Our recent computer network modelling exercise shows the construction of an underground foul attenuation tank on the downstream sewer network will be required to maintain existing levels of service with the connection of all flows; ensuring no additional sewer flooding or overflow spills. This is currently our preferred mitigation option. For further information please refer to Drainage and wastewater management plan. The plan contains general information and also detail for Frome.”
3. How far do LVA think 1.8m allocation for NHS will go? No good just putting in a Primary School, what about 2nd/Middle or will kids be expected to travel to the schools we have already?
“These NHS response (Part 1 and Part 2) summarises what the contribution will be spent on, please note the LPP2 allocations did not provide any contributions towards health infrastructure, however we have not shied away from doing this as a responsible promoter who is trying to secure a well planned and comprehensive scheme. In relation to education we are providing for all levels of education, not just primary and people might simply be confused on the point because it is the primary school we are delivering on site – whereas other contributions are to offsite improvements. In summary the current S106 Heads of Terms include the following:
- £1614.69 per dwelling for early years (so total £2,744,973 based on 1700 dwellings)
- £5741.12 per dwelling for primary (£9,759,904 based on 1700 dwellings)
- £3480.54 per dwelling for secondary (£5,916,918 based on 1700 dwellings)
- £1311.44 per dwelling for Special educational needs (£2,229,448 based on 1700 dwellings)”
4. Where do you think the people will come from who can afford these homes? They will not be local! When do LVA relinquish responsibility of the project?
“Many of the purchasers will be local residents of Frome and the surrounding area as has happened on other developments in the Town where existing residents have moved from one part of Frome to another. The wide array of house types that are proposed in a site like this means that then prices will vary considerably so some properties will be affordable to some, others not, it’s not really a planning question – more an issue of economics. The 510 affordable dwellings that will be delivered on site will be occupied by people with a connection to Frome as already described. LVA will remain in place to coordinate infrastructure delivery, phase sales and ensure developer compliance with the framework we are setting now (i.e. the parameter plans, S106, Design Principles Framework and Design Codes). So their involvement will endure to the very end of the project (i.e. the final phase).”
5. How come Saxonvale has been allowed to linger for over 20 years (in the local plan), but the council is considering this proposal now (outside the development boundary)
After a discussion with Mendip’s Planning Board we have this response: “Firstly, that there have been numerous applications and proposals for Saxonvale for the past 30 years, none of which came to fruition for a variety of reasons. This is partly due to the site being under separate ownerships. Other reasons include developers gaining planning permission before withdrawing from the site, or unsuitable proposals being put forward. It is not a policy issue, more so one of practicality. This should now be resolved with Mendip having purchased the site (and being the singular owner) and there being two ongoing applications for the site. There have been delays with both these applications but hopefully things will begin moving forward again in the new year.
Secondly, once a planning application has been put in, it must be considered. A development boundary does not stop a planning application being put forward as it is policy, not law. Planning policy offers guidance to the deciding officer, who will weigh up a variety of policies, opinions from statutory consultees, public comments, etc before they make their decision. The deciding officer will then present their findings to the council who will make the final decision.
So, despite Selwood Garden Community falling outside of the development boundary, once an application has been put forward, it must follow the planning process. This applies to all planning applications; agricultural buildings, extensions, works to listed buildings.”
The planning committee will deliberate at the next Planning Committee meeting and prepare a paper to be discussed and voted on at a Council meeting (date to be confirmed).
A recording of the meeting can be viewed on the Frome Town Council YouTube channel on the Planning playlist.