V4F continues to be a member of the Somerset Towns Forum (STF). The "Mission" of the STF is as follows: To promote and support community-based action to revitalize the towns of Somerset.
To do this, the aim is to bring together representatives of all the towns and larger villages across Somerset in a network, so as to share issues of common concern, and help in the economic, social and environmental regeneration of the local communities.
Following a loss of funding, the STF has continued on a self-help basis, initially with 10 core members. This has meant some cutting back on activity. However, with residual funds, and a small income from various minor contributions, we have been able to keep issuing the STF newsletters, just not so many of them.
Each member takes on "Hosting" for 6 months, with the task to run a "Network Event". V4F was Host in the second half of 2014, putting on its event, with the Town Council, in October. The current Host is the Diocese of Wells. The next event in Taunton on 18th November will address the problems with dealing with dementia day to day within our commuities.
The STF has also recently been fortunate enough to have a Lottery bid approved, which will enable our coordinator to continue to produce email bulletins, to refresh our website, and to put more life into our Facebook page.
STF has recently pushed around information on what it does to all councillors in towns and Districts likely to be interested in what it does, to seek more participating members and to encourage councillors to sign up to receive the news bulletin. So far this has had an encouraging response.
The last V4F and Town Council Network Event dealt with the progress of our Community Plans, and addressed the challenge to find jobs in towns that have a significant population that commutes out, to attract them back into the town, and meet the calls for jobs generated by the size of the house building programme.
26 August 2015
Last year Frome Town Council ran two consultation activities within the Frome community, "Participate Frome", which was community wide, and a "Frome Youth Consultation". The information produced on what Frome and its young people now want to see happen in the town was a good basis for V4F to look at the content of the Frome Community plan 2008 - 20028, to gauge whether it was still current or if it needs a bit of a refresh.
We therefore joined with the Town Council to have a consultant review the details and reports from these two consultations, and identfiy where, if actually needed, the Community Plan needs amendment. This work is now complete and has shown that the Plan is still very current. Only three new objectives were required, and an additional 15 projects to add to the existing 130; some projects are now complete or are no longer applicable.
Subseqent work was to be considered based on the many other such consultations in focused areas that have been done since the May 2009 Plan delivery date. It was also to be assessed if any further new and open community consultation is needed. One thing we don't want to do is spend money and people's time to go through similar consultations as were done previously to get the same result and add to general "consultation fatigue".
However, this work has been put on hold pending better visibility on what the newly elected Town Council intends to do, in setting out its strategy for its four year programme. It is understood that some document or plan is likely to emerge dealing with both the short and longer term needs within the town.
The means by which the Council aims to do its business has also changed quite radically, with a focus on Panels where specific subject areas are addressed (e.g. Wellbeing & the Town Centre). The task of the Panels is to provide recommendatins for a monthly full Town Council meeting to deall with. V4F looks forward to taking a full part in these Panels, using the Community Plan as it is as a point of reference, and assessing where the results of the panels may need to be assimilated into an updated Community Plan.
26 August 2015
Saxonvale remains a major subject of Town discussion, with two Town Groups ("Frome for All" and "Keep Frome Local" - see their websites in our "Links" section) holding somewhat differing views. V4F has always supported a solution that is coordinated across the whole site, and largely meets the Mendip District Council Planning Brief that was generated in 2005 at considerable cost and wide consultation within the town; even though 10 years has passed, to us there is no great change in community aspirations which would make it outdated in content. It is a continuing concern that development is now being proposed in disconnected and separate proposals, with the Frontier Outline Proposal having been submitted to Mendip District Council and proposed housing development appearing from Terramond, with a retirement complex also identified for the site. Other interesting factors associated with this site was the establishment of the Carely Trust, with an objective to seek a composite, coordinate and visionary solution for the whole site, and the Mendip District Council and the Town Council owning key sections of the site at its East and West extremes. This should give our Councils the means by which a good solution for the site could be managed with the other site owners, not in the current "we'll do our own thing" manner.
This site is so key to the character of the town for generations to come that we absolutely owe it to them that we do our best to get it right. Why V4F has a strong interest is that the site has the potential of contributing to the meeting of so many of the Objectives and Projects within the Community Plan. You can see in our "Links" section our submission to Mendip District Council on the Frontier submission, and a supporting very detailed analysis of how the Community Plan, and the various other relevant Plans that exist, should relate to what could and should be done with the Saxonvale site. There is also a spreadsheet showing the Projects that could also relate.
The latest activity has been for the Town Council to commission a consultant to draw up an outline vision of how the site, in its entirety, could be developed. The Frontier submission is also soon to be considered by the Mendip District Council Planning Board. This was expected in October but has been postponed. To seek to have a greater local influence on this important development a Neighbourhood Development Order is being contemplated, and a Town Council Position Paper has been drawn up to object to the Frontier outline, and to seek to ahieve the type of "Whole Site" solution V4F has been supporting. V4F has therefore become a joint signatory of this Position Statement.
We will therefore continue to do what we can to help achieve a good solution for the whole site.
26 August 2015
There has been previous questioning as to what the effort and cost to generate the Community Plan has actually achieved. Well quite a lot actually, and it has the potential to contribute a great deal more, and this is what keeps us interested and active. To summarize, its positve contribution has included:
- The objectives in the Plan have been the basis for the previousTown Council's Strategic Plan for their 4 year programme, typically in such areas as the Neighbourhood Plan, the Town Centre Remodelling, the Energy and Waste initiatives, marketting the town, making the most of the town's markets, development of the river side with the Friends of the River Frome, and several more. See our documents section for the report produced on the scheme for the river.
- Support for the F.R.O.G.S. successful funding submision to develop the Welshmill area for young people.
- Support for the successful Cheese and Grain's intitial development funding submission.
- Support for the successful Cheese and Grain submission for funds for equipment in the community room parts of their new develoment.
- Support for the submission for initial funding of the Cultural Quarter scheme.
- The objectives within the Plan to make the most of the town's green spaces was the spur for V4F to take the initiative and prompt the District Council to actively progress the use of Section 106 money to improve the community facilities on the Old Show ground. V4F offered to run a consultation on what these improvements might be, but in the end assisted the Town Council to do this with time and £500 funding. The progress on this has now picked up, with the Town Council aquiring the site, the Village Green application being withdrawn, and a return to a further round of consultations to confirm what the community wants to see on the site and in what priority.
- An anlaysis of what Saxonvale could provide to meet the Plan's projects and objectives, to help inform the debate and the review of submitted development plans.
- An analysis of what the Community Plan wishes to see in improved road and pedestrian layouts, to support community discussion and a related plan on local transport needs. See our documents section for the Transport Plan produced, and a report on what is needed to mame the town more "disabled - Marginalized Group" friendly,.
- The Plan has provided some support for a town Renewable Energy Group, which has now become FRECo.
- Latterly, with the new Town Council running its Panels (see the news article above), extracts from the Community Plan and its Project list are available to assist the Panels in their considerations.
26 August 2015