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Frome Chamber of Commerce joined Somerset Chamber of Commerce to bring together some of the larger businesses in town with numerous representatives from Mendip District Council and Frome Town Council to continue a conversation we started last year.

The businesses and organisations were brought together for the MD lunch, an annual event is to give businesses a platform to discuss the issues that concern them. The topics ranged from problems experienced in the planning process, the ongoing debate about whether high speed broadband is being made available quickly enough, to the availability of sufficient grow on space for businesses in town.

We also discussed how the education system is doing in preparing school leavers for work, and this provided useful feedback for Rachel Burrell from the Education Business Partnership who is working on that relationship between schools and colleges, and the needs required of the Somerset employment market.

To bring these subjects to life, a walk around the 11 acre Saxonvale site was organised in the morning, followed by a meeting with Nash Partnership and Acorn Developments who are taking the project forwards. It was great to see the interaction between people in town who know how the retail and commercial sectors flow, and provide critical feedback at this early planning stage.

As Rajan Russell, a local developer, put it: “This is the largest infrastructure project in Frome since the industrial revolution. Getting it right is critical.”

There are key issues that so often get watered down in developments like social housing, commercial space (and therefore jobs), car parking, and transport as they are often in conflict with the profit maximisation goal of most shareholders. It will be challenging to resist the almost inevitable push for a greater residential element.

There was also a visit up to the Frome Business Park, a 23,000 sqft premium office development being developed by David and Hannah Nicholson of DNA Worldwide that is opening in the first half of next year.

At the end of the event Simon Williams, current President of Frome Chamber of Commerce noted: “This is our signature event of the year… a key part of the Chamber’s goal to make sure that the business community communicate openly and clearly with local government, and through that representation make sure that we keep building the Frome economy to support the local residents. Developments at Saxonvale and Market Place are critical to that future and the time is now for businesses to make their voices heard.”