Much of what we have done has been through partnerships; working through and with others. This helps makes for better decision making, and ultimately helps reposition the Council as a facilitator, helping to achieve the objectives of others.
The Cheese and Grain
The Cheese and Grain has been a particular success with over 200 000 people a year using it. Early on we invested in solar panels on the roof which will bring in over £100k for the town over their life. More importantly, until 2013 the Town Council paid the C and G a subsidy of around £35K per annum. We converted that into loan repayments of around £30K p.a. to provide investment for the new café, bar and booking hall downstairs, and new meeting rooms and hot desks, and vastly improved toilets and facilities for performers. The Cheese & Grain is now self-financing and the town saves money every year; We are now looking at how to use the semi derelict far end of the building for a range of youth training ideas.
The town had an allotment waiting list of 10 years. With a clever alliance of the Community Interest Company (see below) and the Council, we bought a field. Then, we gave it to the Allotment Society along with all the other allotments who have developed a truly fantastic allotment site. (Of course this has now led to so much enthusiasm for allotments that the waiting list is back up, but the process can be repeated).
Shock at the magnitude of chronic issues surrounding the extent of poverty in Frome led to the formation of ‘Fair Frome’ as a charity. Again in partnership with Frome Development CIC Fair Frome has already launched a very successful food bank; funded the Mendip Credit Union for work specific to Frome and developed a series of community lunches. Over time it will also become an advocate for those most vulnerable in town. The formation of Fair Frome is perhaps the best example of where IfF is directly responsible for an initiative seen as beyond the remit of other Council’s at this level.
The Market Place
The town centre doesn’t work for cars or buses or pedestrians so we have instigated a series of consultations which have now led to a planning application to revamp the area around the Boyles Cross as phase one of a wider scheme to ensure that we can all cross the road with some degree of safety. We think it’s important that the town continues to invest in a thriving and accessible centre.
The Neighbourhood Plan
IfF Councillor, Graham Burgess, has lead on the establishment of the Frome Neighbourhood Plan. One of the first in the country, the NP will direct new residential growth, save employment land and identifying new areas for community development. It’s currently with Mendip awaiting final approval before a referendum some time in 2015.
Education, Training and Play
We have not forgotten the young. The Welshmill Pump Track is now complete – another example of working with a community organization, FROGS. There is also new equipment in the Mary Bailey Playing Field and an all weather multi use games area. We’ve also provided very significant grants to Mendip YMCA who have carried out a whole raft of activities with young people; the Town Council has also been key to the development of Edventure: Frome – an organisation modelling a different approach to apprenticeships and youth training. More traditionally, we are working with the College on apprentice schemes and with MindSet who give training in construction, while also carrying out important work for the council. These initiatives only came about because of our philosophy and openness to new ideas.
We promised to be as green as possible and the Neighbourhood Plan places ‘One Planet Living’ at the core of our aspirations. The council has won a coveted Green Energy Award, based on widespread activity in the community to reduce energy use and increase insulation; a programme of work in schools; an Open Homes weekend and ‘One Planet’ day in the C&G ; The new electric car club has been a subsequent development.
Much of this work has been carried out by the town’s Energy and Recycling officer – the only post at this level in the UK. The council has also been a crucial ally in the formation of Frome Renewable Energy Co-op which is about to place very significant photovoltaic panels on the Health Centre and new Football Club stand with community investment and profits for Frome of over £250K.
IfF councillors have recently agreed to fund a new feasibility study to try and bring the landowners of the saxonvale site together to hammer out a new deal, devised and implemented in the town and for the town to achieve a balanced development taking into account.
There is now a joined up strategy for the management of the green spaces in Frome and the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are being steadily attended to – along with and less visible members of our community through corridors of biodiversity. Working with local groups to identify areas at risk. With the imminent appointment of an Environment Manager to replace the previous post of Parks and Buildings Manager this will become a real priority area.