Frome and District Chamber of Commerce welcomes any new provision of employment land, to meet the excess demand for this in Frome, rebalance the housing developments, and meet the targets in MDC’s Local Plan.
We would welcome it more if it was within or better connected with Frome.
Similar units elsewhere on Commerce Park provide facilities for a wide range of businesses. In many cases, these are not optimal for the businesses, which would prefer to be closer to the town centre, but are the only employment spaces that have been available to them without leaving Frome together. We would expect the industrial units to be taken up rapidly, including as offices and other uses within class BI.
We understand the concerns of local residents about noise or other disruption from this development. We would not expect many of the occupiers the industrial units to create a noise likely to cause any disruption. Any standard commercial lease will include a provision that the tenant must not cause any nuisance or annoyance to other tenants or neighbours. We would expect MDC as the planning authority to impose and enforce appropriate planning conditions.
However, the Travel Plan is inadequate because:
- Access to Commerce Park from Frome is almost entirely dependent upon the use of private cars, leaving town and accessing Commerce Park from the bypass. There is no bus service.
- Although a pedestrian/cycling route exists, it is little used, because it is dark, unlit and is perceived not to be safe, either by employees, or in many cases parents of young people who might otherwise be able to work at Commerce Park. That access needs to be improved generally for everyone using Commerce Park, so that it becomes a practical route, not just a theoretical one.
The Travel Plan is also likely to be completely ineffective because:
- Very few, if any of the small industrial units will be occupied by businesses employing sufficient numbers to meet any thresholds for action. e.g., the threshold of 15 staff to set up a car sharing scheme or 25 staff put up a notice board.Distribution units employ small numbers of staff by reference to their floor area, and even the two larger units may not reach the threshold of 25 staff to trigger the requirement for a travel plan, travel coordinator and survey.
- Even if any of those thresholds are reached and there is a requirement to report to Somerset County Council that is a pointless activity. There are no targets set in the Travel Plan, so no measure of success. Somerset County Council does not publish the results of individual surveys nor have they ever published any coordinated outcomes from Travel Plans, or surveys, so we have no idea whether or not any of these have ever had any effect. Nor can employers learn from what works and what doesn’t. This should be enforced by a planning condition requiring the publication of surveys and reports of action taken, and whether or not that effective. These observations apply to travel plan conditions generally, not just to this one.