FHfF response to the Selwood Garden Village consultation, January 2020

Fair Housing for Frome (FHfF) is a local non-profit organization whose goal is to work with the people of Frome and the surrounding areas, particularly those on low incomes, to enable them to live in a genuinely affordable and decent quality home that promotes their health and wellbeing.

FHfF is dedicated to researching and raising awareness of the housing crisis in our town and to exploring how the housing needs of local people can be addressed. Based on over three years of meetings, events, research and conversations with local residents, it considers major housing developments such as SGV as a welcome opportunity to:

1. Carry out a thorough assessment of the town’s housing needs and aspirations as the basis for the master plan and detailed design of any major new housing scheme. Although there is evidence of considerable unmet housing needs in Frome, it will be important to clarify whether there is the need for a development on the scale proposed. This should include whether the town currently has adequate and appropriate housing options for specific groups such as young people, single people and small families, as well as whether it could have a negative impact on the wellbeing and quality of life of other residents in the town. 

2. Demonstrate a real sense of community leadership and accountability, including the active participation of FACLT, the Frome Area Community Land Trust. This will be particularly important to ensure the success of a scheme of this size, which – if pursued on the proposed scale – could lead to an increase of at least 15% in the population of Frome. 

3. Increase the availability of social housing in Frome. Somerset Council’s Homefinder scheme is currently only able to provide social housing for approximately one in three of applicants so a scheme such as this is an opportunity to address this urgent need. FHfF notes that in the SGV documents provided to date, social housing is currently listed only as a desirable rather than an essential component of the scheme. 

4. Provide a substantial amount of genuinely affordable housing (principally social rented), in proportion to local wage levels and (for those on benefits) to the Fixed Housing Allowance. There is widespread evidence and concern that low income families are being pushed out of Frome by recent rises in market rents and house prices, which is not only inequitable but damaging to the diversity of the town including its working population. 

5. Include some housing that is solely designated for people with a local connection. As the national reputation of Frome increases, it is important to protect the needs of younger and older people who have grown up in the town and who have family, jobs and social networks here. The best mechanism for enabling this would most likely be via FACLT, the Frome Area Community Land Trust, and involve the establishment of a Local Lettings Agreement. 

6. Follow best practice in promoting the sense of community that is vital to the long-term wellbeing of residents and to preserving the unique qualities of Frome as a vibrant market town. Examples of good practice that have been successful elsewhere include:

  • Building housing in squares around shared open spaces, rather than in rows 
  • Providing housing designed for a mix of age groups
  • Integrating work and housing
  • Placing parking away from houses
  • Promoting community gardens 

A sense of community ownership and wellbeing could also be generated by enabling new residents to have a say over the ongoing management and functioning of the neighbourhood – for example via tenant co-operatives, resident management organization(s) or resident association(s). 

7. Respond constructively and creatively to the tremendous interest in tiny homes, self-build and co-housing in Frome, especially among younger people who are currently excluded from the housing market. FHfF is keen to see all new housing developments allocate space for this, and especially in a scheme of this size. 

8. Future-proof any new housing developments with regard to the climate emergency, which over the next thirty years will radically change the way we think about housing, energy, transport and food. We would like to see these considerations incorporated into the design and planning process of any new housing scheme in Frome, from the very beginning. The creation of genuine and long-term work opportunities for new residents will be particularly critical in the SGV scheme, to avoid the possibility of it evolving into a car-dependent commuter suburb for people working in Bath or Bristol. It will also be important to provide generous green space for allotments, community gardens and other green initiatives, and to ensure that all homes are carbon neutral. 

If the SGV scheme goes forward, FHfF will be happy to work with Frome Town Council in playing a liaison role with the local community to explore how the scheme can bring maximum benefit to the town, in line with the following statement from the Town and Country Planning Authority website: 

 “The original garden villages were based on a strong foundation of industry and employment, with their developers seeking to create well designed, healthy places and affordable homes. Garden villages built today should apply the same principles, but in a 21st century context, to create vibrant, diverse and affordable communities. Without providing the right employment, community facilities and range of housing, new garden villages risk becoming dormitory commuter suburbs – the antithesis of the Garden City idea.” – https://www.tcpa.org.uk

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