Mendip District Council: Planning Board, Wednesday, 15 September 2021

2019/1180/OTS Saxonvale, Frome, Somerset
Mendip District Council – Planning Board Minutes

Watch the meeting online here

The Officer Report provided was an update and
implications report with reference to the outline planning
application considered by Members at the Planning
Board meeting on 28 January 2021. The main Officer
Report considered at that meeting was presented again
with the recommended conditions amended to take into
account the updating comments as presented at that
The Report provided an update in relation to various
matters and also advised Members that the Council had
received a Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol letter
setting out 2 specific proposed Grounds of Challenge in
relation to the decision taken on 28 January 2021 to
approve 2019/1180/OTS.

The Officer Report said that following examination
hearings on the Mendip Local Plan Part 2 (LPP2), the
Council had received the Inspector’s Report for fact
checking and expected to be able to publish this by midSeptember. The Inspector’s Report confirmed that LPP2
was sound and legally compliant subject to Main

In relation to Frome, the main modifications had not been
changed from those published for consultation. The
Inspector’s Report would be reported to Full Council to
confirm adoption in October/November 2021 but that
whilst LPP2 was not yet part of the adopted development
plan, it carried significant weight having passed though
the examination stage.

Regarding the Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol letter,the Officer Report said that the Council had received formal notification of a third party’s intention to challenge the grant of the outline planning permission after the decision had been issued.

The two grounds set in the
letter as received were as follows:
• Ground 1: Failure to comply with s.38(6) of
Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 Act
by failing to have regard to development plan
Policy DP20 and misinterpreting Policy CP6.
• Ground 2: Failure to consider the statutory duty in
relation to demolition of a listed
building/requirement to consider a material
change in circumstances since the resolution of
the Planning Board

In conclusion, the Officer Report said that the analysis as
set out in the update and implications report in relation to
the engagement and assessment of the application
scheme against adopted Policies CP6, DP3 and DP20
should be considered by Members as supplementary
advice to the assessment provided in the main Officer
Report that was presented to the January 2021 meeting.
Combined with the original analysis as set out in the main
report and the supplementary advice in the update and
implications report, it was considered that it had been
satisfactorily demonstrated that the application scheme
proposed complied with the relevant policies of the
adopted local plan and the requirements of Policy FR1 of
emerging LPP2. Furthermore, given the now advanced
stage of LPP2 it was considered that that policy and the
application’s compliance with it should be afforded
significant weight in the decision on the application.
As per the Report presented, incorporating the changes
to the conditions as confirmed by the Minutes of the
Board meeting on 28th January 2021, the Officer
Recommendation remained to approve the application,
subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement as
confirmed in the main Officer Report (amended to include
24% affordable housing provision) and conditions.
Before the discussions commenced, the Chair asked the
Head of Service to introduce the item. She said that the
application had been reported to the Planning Board in
January 2021 and that the Board had considered the
application in depth and made a sound decision,
considering relevant policies and information. Since then,
discussions had occurred to put in place the required
S106 Agreement. She advised that it was normal in
complex cases for this to take time and in this case, it was
not unusual. The proposal was in accordance with LPP2
and given the progress of the plan through to adoption,
this emerging policy could be given significant weight. On
receipt of the Pre-Action Protocol letter referred to in the
Officer Report, advice had been sought from legal
counsel. Following their advice, the application was
brought to the Planning Board now to ensure that the
matters raised in the Pre-Action Protocol letter were
reviewed by the Board. Therefore, the focus for Members
to consider was in relation to Policies CP6, DP20,
consideration of the heritage issues and the Inspector’s
recent report regarding LPP2. The decisions on the
subsequent planning and listed building applications that
covered a small part of the application site and to
undertake demolition works had been delayed until after the Board’s consideration of the information at this
meeting. She confirmed there had been no changes to
the application scheme since it was approved in January
2021 and that Officers considered there had been no
material changes which would lead the Local Planning
Authority to reach a different conclusion on this
application. Therefore, grant of permission was

The Team Leader – Development Management added
that as per the Updating Report published and distributed
the previous day, he was able to confirm that the Council
had received and published the Inspector’s Report on
LPP2 and had notified its intention to adopt LPP2 in
accordance with the Inspector’s recommendations.
Therefore, Members could give significant weight to the
policy provisions outlined in LPP2 and Policy FR1. He
went on to give further details for the reasons the
application was back before the Planning Board as
outlined by the Head of Service and gave clarification on
how the application was assessed against the relevant
policies. He then reminded Members of the details of the

Regarding the legal challenge the Team Leader –
Development Management went on to outline the key
issues raised as set out in the Report pack.
He concluded by saying that Members could give
significant weight to emerging Policy FR1 and that the
proposal was in compliance with the Council’s most upto-date policy. The Officer Recommendation was for
approval subject to the completion of a Section 106
agreement, and the conditions set out in the report pack.
Finally, he advised Members that since the Updating
Report had been published the previous day, an
approximate further 260 representations had been
received, all of which were objections.

The Chair then invited Mr Paul Oster to speak in
opposition to the application.

Mr Oster said that the scheme failed to contribute more than 4181 m2 to Policy CP3, which requires 11,850 m2 of employment land. He
said that Policy CP3 could never be delivered and that the
scheme breaches this policy. He spoke about another
proposal for Saxonvale called the ‘Mayday’ scheme
which puts commercial space at the heart of the town. He
also said the Acorn scheme breached the 30% affordable
housing requirement with only 24%, whilst the Mayday
scheme would deliver 40%. He said Mayday was a viable

and deliverable plan which would deliver on community
needs and priorities far beyond policy compliance. The
Acorn scheme would cause clear planning harm and
does not meet local employment floor space policies or
affordable housing policy requirements. He added that
there was clear case law to consider an alternative
scheme when presented with a scheme which does
cause planning harm. The Mayday scheme does none of
this harm and pointed out that Members could decide
they did not have adequate information and defer the

The Team Leader – Development Management then
gave clarification of Policy CP6 regarding reference to the Saxonvale area.

He confirmed that the Council was not
considering another application for the Saxonvale site
and that this was the reason he had not made any
reference to any other scheme in his Officer Report. Even
if another application for the same site had been received,
it was important for Members to understand that they
should not be making a choice, or a decision, based on
which they would prefer, but based on an assessment of
that application against the policies in the adopted and
emerging local plan.

Mr Simon Gait was then invited to speak by the Chair.
He said that Acorn remained resolute to develop the site
and that the Section 106 Agreement was ready for
signing with the affordable, agreed and policy compliant
24% providing 72 affordable homes. Also, significant,
desired, useable commercial space and the Weston
warehouse being developed by Frome Town Council. He
said they would be submitting the reserved matters for
Phase 1 shortly and developing Saxonvale which had
been derelict for far too long. He concluded that their
consultation proved that a sizeable majority were well
behind the scheme and wanted to see it developed.
Ward Councillor Michael Dunk then spoke. He said he
was impressed by the comments from the Frome Town
Council, the Civic Society and the Chamber of Commerce
which were all respected organisations. He was very
saddened by the insufficient provision of commercial
space within the scheme and that Frome desperately
needed commercial space within the town centre, not on
the edge of town. He said that the Acorn scheme was
offering a high-density residential development with some
commercial and the minimum of affordable housing. This
is because they are a development company with an aim
to make profit and are in partnership with the Council.

Acorn have said that to provide more commercial space
within the scheme would not be viable, but that would
mean less profit for themselves. He said he was surprised
that the Council had acted as if it was also a business,
aiming to make a substantial profit seeking to develop
Frome town centre. He added that, from his
understanding of Policy CP6, he still needed to be
convinced that the scheme satisfied the meaning of
Policy CP6. He concluded that there may be a new
scheme proposed in the coming days and that it would be
a shame not to consider this, which may provide more.
Ward Councillor John Clarke said that there were a
massive number of objections to this proposal and that
this must be a factor in the deliberations, including
objections Frome Town Council and Civic Society and
Chamber of Commerce. One reason for the objections is
the lack of commercial space. He said he was not aware
of any area, outside of the Saxonvale site, which was
known as Saxonvale, and that if Policy CP6 was not
referring to the Saxonvale area, then where in Frome
would the Council be able to meet the needs of the local
plan? He said that there were no other brownfield sites
for commercial development as all others have been
developed for residential. He spoke about the need for
regeneration of the town to provide more employment
and reduce the need for car journeys which this scheme
did not offer. He said that the style and character of the
development did not reflect that of the town of Frome or
its heritage. The site would be over developed, too dense
and would obscure the heritage asset of Silk Mill.
In the discussion which followed Councillor HewittCooper said that the development of Saxonvale had been
a long-term scheme and could not be regarded as having
been rushed. Any large site within the centre of a town
would receive many objections but the proposal this
evening had previously been approved by the Planning
Board in January 2021. He reminded Members it was an
outline application which should be determined now as
this was the only proposal for the site and it would not be
right to postpone determination in case something
“better” may come along. He then proposed to approve in
accordance with Officer recommendation. This was
seconded by Councillor Laura Waters.
One Member asked whether the Board had a duty to
consider any other application that may come along. The
Legal Advisor said that there was currently no live
application for an alternative scheme – but even if there

was, competing planning applications did not have to be
heard at the same time. He agreed with the advice given
by the Team Leader – Development Management, that
even if another scheme may be in the process of coming
forward, it should not prevent determination of this

Councillor Laura Waters spoke about how long the site
had been vacant and the dangers of the toxic pollution,
anti-social behaviour and break-ins onto the site. She
said that it had been a scar on the landscape for far too
long and that although there may be an alternative
scheme from Mayday, their plan was not viable. The
Council had invested a huge amount of time and money
on the site and said it must be progressed. At the January
2021 meeting, the Planning Board came to a balanced,
sound judgement having dedicated the whole meeting to
the Saxonvale application and said it would be insulting
to overturn a perfectly sound decision.

A number of other Members agreed with her comments
and added that there was already a Section 106
Agreement agreed by all parties. Once signed the District
would be presented with a semi-derelict site with a viable
scheme at long last.

Councillor Janine Nash asked if it would be possible to
have 2 planning applications granted for the same site.
The Interim Head of Planning responded that it would be
possible. Councillor Nash proposed to defer the decision
as there were a number of new Members sitting on the
Board since the January decision was made and she
would like Acorn to provide more social housing. This was
seconded by Councillor John Clarke.

The Legal Advisor clarified that the substantive motion
was to approve the application (proposed by Cllr Hewitt
Cooper and second by Cllr Waters) in accordance with
Officer Recommendations. If that motion failed, then the
proposal to defer the application could be re-tabled.
One Ward Councillor said it was not relevant how long the
site had stood empty and that it was most important not
to rush a decision and accept the first thing offered, but to
ensure it is the right decision. He said that the need for
commercial space within Frome was not provided for by
this application. This was echoed by another Ward
Councillor who also said that he was a new Planning
Board Member and was not on the Board when the
decision was made in January 2021. He was representing his Ward and wanted what was best for the people of

Another Member said that most Members of the Board
had many years of experience of planning applications
and said that the scheme was back before the Board on
a technicality. The application was found to be perfectly
sound, sensible and logical for Frome when approved in
January 2021.

The Team Leader – Development Management
reminded Members that the Officer Recommendation
was the same as in January and that the proposal was
before Members again to ensure that the decision made
then was robust and would withstand any legal challenge.
The Head of Service added that advice had been sought
from legal counsel to ensure that the matters raised in the
Pre-Action Protocol letter had been reviewed by the
Planning Board.
A vote was then taken on the proposal from Councillor
Hewitt-Cooper and seconded by Councillor Laura Waters
to approve the application in accordance with the Officer
Recommendation. This was a recorded vote which was
carried by 7 votes to 6.

Eve Berry – For
John Clarke – Against
Nick Cottle – For
Michael Dunk – Against
Nigel HewittCooper – For
Edric Hobbs – Against
Lindsay MacDougall – Against
Matt Martin – Against
Janine Nash – Against
Lucy TaylorHood – For
Alan Townsend – For
Laura Waters – For
Nigel WoollcombeAdams – For

Total 7 for/6 against