August’s Town Matters started with a welcome from the Chair, Cllr Andy Palmer. After approving and signing the minutes from the last meeting there were questions and comments from the public and Cllrs.
Vivienne Whitaker, Projects Officer at Frome Town Council (FTC) kicked off the meeting with an overview of the support that FTC have provided to retailers during lockdown and the subsequent easing. FTC worked with retailers and hospitality to promote the grants that were available and guidelines to follow and distributed this through various avenues, business bulletins, social media and via the Retail Group.
FTC also co-ran a webinar to help local retailers in Frome plan for alternative ways of trading through lockdown. Additionally, the take up of online training proved popular and with the Chamber of Commerce, ran a series of Discuss & Do events, while also signposting to other relevant training available.
Communications were an important element, sending business bulletins and updates, creating a business area on the FTC website specifically relating to Covid-19. FTC also contacted local retailers and hospitality providers to hear what services they were offering and promoted this on a new section on the Discover Frome website, to encourage people to continue to shop locally, including delivery services, online shopping and voucher schemes.
Various activity, once lockdown had eased, took place from promotional banners around the town, a double page spread in the Frome Times, one for shops and another at the time that hospitality opened again. Following this we have promoted the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and are assisting hospitality providers with pavement licences and set up.
FTC will continue to communicate with local retailers and hospitality providers to help identify actions that will support the town’s recovery. Read Viv’s full Update on Retail and Hospitality report .
Following this, we heard from Tina Gaisford from Hunting Raven Bookstore, who told us about the challenges they have faced and how they are moving forward and planning for the future and how FTC can help with that.
Peter Wheelhouse was next up, following in a similar vein, and presented his report which was to share information on ideas that emerged from a series of Recovery Panels that were held in June – these were off the back of the results of the What Next for Frome household survey which nearly 500 responses were received from the community.
The biggest challenges identified from the survey were: missing family and friends; grocery shopping; issues relating to employment and personal finance. Respondents felt that there were some positive aspects to lockdown – the most popular responses included: neighbours and a growing sense of community; less traffic and more walking and cycling. The biggest areas that we were encouraged to focus on included: helping local businesses; supporting walking and cycling; protecting the environment; supporting children and families; improving the town centre.
The trends from the survey were shared with a number of Recovery Panels to stimulate discussion about creative solutions. Those panels comprised representatives of both the community and the Council.
Many of these ideas gleaned at the Recovery Panels are already being taking forward in the context of the Council’s existing Work Programme or by other organisations in the community. In other cases, new resources or a diversion of staff effort will be necessary to take these ideas forward. The Management Group at FTC are currently in the process of reviewing the Work Programme in the light of the outcomes of this work on Recovery and firm recommendations will be presented to Council as soon as possible. Read the full the full Ideas to support Frome’s Recovery report and the highlights from each Panel.
Anna Francis, FTC’s Resilience Manager, was up next with her report for a proposed School Street project. It has been highlighted that there is a problem around some school streets regarding pollution and congestion, and as safe walking and cycling are amongst the top priorities for the Frome community at the moment, this trial will see an implementation of the first School Street in Somerset around Oakfield, Trinity and Critchill Schools. It is proposed that FTC commissions detailed feasibility and community consultation during August, with the trial pop up starting at the beginning of the school term in September. After much discussion, Cllrs approved, and a report will be brought to Cllrs with the outcome of the community consultation and trial. Here is the Safer School project report.
Anna then continued with her next reports: first for FTC to commission a landscape sensitivity analysis to outline which areas around Frome are suitable for renewable energy projects, which will feed into the local plan to help ensure that wind and solar projects are sensitively located with minimal impact on the landscape (read the Enviornment Landscape Sensitivity Analysis report). And then lastly for Anna, she provided an overview of the work FTC have been doing with “Field to Fork”, to explore local food resilience and to have links with local food producers to develop an understanding of how much food is grown locally and what local producers might need (Read the Field to Fork proposal), Cllrs were asked for their support. Both reports were confirmed by Cllrs.
Wrapping up the meeting, Kate Hellard, Community Development Manager, updated Cllrs on the discussions with Public Square and to agree for the Grants Advisory Group working with them to initiate and deliver a co-design project with a focus on designing a grants process that meets local need (Read the Grants Review Process Report here). Cllrs fully agreed and supported this.
The agenda and details of everything mentioned above can be found here. Dates of future Council and committee meetings can be found here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep updated on everything we’re up to.