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Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Clearance work will begin at Frome's exemplar heritage development, Saxonvale, during the coming weeks, as the transformation of this once-derelict site progresses.

Mendip District Council has signed a delivery agreement with contractors Balfour Beatty to begin a schedule of works which will commence in the late summer. The contractors currently have operational control of the site, which is closed to the public due to strict safety measures.

The clearance is being funded through Homes England who, recognising the significant social and civic benefits of the Saxonvale scheme, awarded the Council £4 million to clean-up and prepare the site, prior to building. The grant was offered through the Government's Local Authority Accelerated Construction (LAAC) programme.

The works include the long-overdue removal of hazardous materials, which are harmful to people and nature. There will be service disconnections to buildings, the clearance of vegetation and demolition of dangerous and derelict concrete structures.

Great care has been taken not to damage historic buildings or ancient borders, and a Council-commissioned ecologist, has been providing expertise on the environment, wildlife and habitats.

One of the ways local residents and businesses neighbouring Saxonvale will be kept informed of progress, is through public noticeboards. These will be installed at site entrance points. They'll display work schedules, news items, site manager contacts, and essential safety messaging. Local, sustainable, not-for-profit firm Somerset Wood Recycling, upcycled the oak noticeboards and repurposed them.

Saxonvale was granted outline planning permission in January 2021. Regeneration specialists, Acorn Property Group, are the appointed developers and will transform the original manufacturing site using their experience and 'different by design' ethos to incorporate sensitive design and local features.

They will create contemporary, high-quality, living and work spaces that will include affordable housing. There will be new cycle and pedestrian paths. Desirable public areas will include a riverside café and park with river walk, as well as a new public square to foster a lively community hub that will add to the vitality and diversity of the town centre. Sensitive landscaping will ensure historic trees are fully integrated into the design.

Acorn has a strong commitment to sustainability. A key principle of the mixed-use development is to create a sustainable neighbourhood that empowers residents to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Robin Squire, Managing Director of Acorn's Bristol Region, said: "The appointment of Balfour Beatty to commence enabling works marks an important milestone at the start of this exciting regeneration project and the very beginning of delivering this important town centre site for Frome.

"We are looking forward to transforming Saxonvale from a derelict site into a vibrant new sustainable neighbourhood and a destination that Frome can be proud of."

Paul South, Pre-Construction Manager at Balfour Beatty, said: "Through the SCAPE Civil Engineering Framework, we are delighted to be working alongside Mendip District Council on these essential clearance works.

"We look forward to building on our long-standing relationship with the Council whilst also benefiting the community in Frome, providing numerous local employment and supply chain opportunities."

Mendip District Council's Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Enterprise and Finance, Barry O'Leary, said: "This will be great news for the people of Frome, the district, the economy and environment. Instead of a stalled site, we will have sustainability and bloom.

"I believe this town centre development, located on the banks of the River Frome, is the most exciting and innovative to come to Somerset."

Leader of Mendip District Council, Cllr Ros Wyke, said: "I know this development will fill people with civic pride when it's completed. Jobs will be created to build it, new skills will be gained, and future careers and opportunities, yet unknown, will be available to those who occupy its commercial spaces."

Cllr Wyke added: "When the District Council bought the derelict land a few years ago, no-one wanted it or knew what to do with it. Now it's set to flourish into a thriving post-Covid community hub in the heart of Frome.

"We're creating so much more than just a commercial and housing development. We're building a community."

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