The local elections are over and Frome continues to have a fully independent Town Council with all 17 seats being taken by the Independents for Frome group. There will be little or no time for the newly elected councillors to relax and celebrate their win as the issues facing the town are significant as they are for the country as a whole. Locally at a town level there are obvious limits to what a small town or parish council can do but past experience shows us that our own town council often punch above their weight and get some extraordinary things done. FACLT spoke with some of the new councillors, two of whom were re-elected and two elected for the first time. The housing crisis was high on their agendas.
Andy Jones is chair of Fair Housing for Frome and has now jumped in at the deep end winning a seat onthe newly elected town council. Andy said ‘I am pleased and also proud to have been elected as a Town Councillor in Frome, I think that party politics has no place in local democracy so the Independents for Frome group was an obvious choice for me. I want to be free to support the policies and initiatives that I believe will benefit Frome and its residents. Through my work with Fair Housing for Frome and other local organisations I have a growing awareness of the need to find a balanced way forward as the town continues to grow and evolve. These projects have helped me to understand the tensions between the need to protect biodiversity in our green places, and the need to provide truly affordable, secure homes that will allow our communities to thrive.
Polly Lamb is also on the board of Fair Housing for Frome Polly wrote ‘As a new councillor, I’m ready to listen to the needs of the town. There is a growing inequality in this country between those who are comfortable and those who are struggling, and Frome is no exception. We have many great community initiatives being developed by Frome Town Council and groups it supports, and in a post-pandemic environment with the climate emergency front and centre, we are going to need strong community efforts to get through this.
Having been a director of Fair Housing for Frome for 2 years and run my own letting agency in Frome, I have a good knowledge of the problems that make up the housing crisis. Anyone engaging in Frome’s social media pages will know how much strength of feeling there is in Frome about housing here. The magic trick will be, turning that engagement into positive action to find solutions and as a new group of councillors, we already have some ideas about how to get more feedback from the people of the town to make sure we are working for what they want and need.
There is a lot of pressure from all sides when it comes to planning for more housing here. People who have lived here for many years with very little advancement in their salaries have seen rental prices leap out of their reach. Families are being forced to move away, and with no student-style accommodation here and very few landlords accepting house shares, Frome will also lose the young people who would otherwise stay. We need more housing clearly, but the right kind. Sustainable, affordable and ideally funded by the new unitary council. I hope to be a part of that conversation within FTC and I know there will be challenging meetings ahead”
Fair Housing for Frome’s development worker Steve Tanner who was re-elected said ‘We have a new council in place and one of the major challenges over the next 5 years is to look to shape any housing developments so that they strike the balance between protecting our beautiful green spaces and providing the necessary type of housing that the town desperately needs. For too long we have seen housing schemes driven by the financial needs of developers, and recently district councils, we need to make sure future schemes are driven by the needs of the community and don’t look to maximise profit.
Former mayor Anita Collier was also re-elected. Anita told us ‘I’m delighted to have been selected once again to serve as a member of Frome Town Council as it will enable me to continue my fight for all those in dire housing need. We need to continue to fight large new developments that take no or little account of the need for social and affordable housing. We need to be harder on those who have second homes in Frome that are left empty for months on end and we need to be fighting for more information on empty properties that could be converted into suitable dwellings for single people or smaller families. The fight for Frome families to stay in Frome is something I’m passionate about and will be using my position to influence all those who have the power to make it happen’