A MAJOR employer in Frome has said he may relocate to a different town after new homes were approved next door.

Andy Mead is transport director at KRL/Palletways, a distribution firm based on Manor Road within the Marston Trading Estate in the town.

The company currently employs 50 people in the local area, and has been looking to expand on neighbouring land owned by Somerset County Council.

But Mr Mead revealed on Wednesday evening (January 18) that he is planning to relocate over the border into Wiltshire as Mendip District Council approved plans for 24 new homes on the vacant land.

Under the proposals put forward by the Stonewater housing association, 24 passivhaus homes will be built on vacant land behind the Colliers Court day centre, which is run by Dimensions on behalf of the county council.

The new homes will be accessed from Cherry Grove, next to the Cherrytrees nursing home, with the properties expected to become available by the spring of 2024.

Eight of the 24 properties will be affordable, with 55 new parking spaces being provided for residents as well as additional spaces for the nursing home.

Somerset County Gazette: Andy Mead addresses Mendip District Council's planning board. Andy Mead addresses Mendip District Council's planning board. (Image: Mendip District Council)

Mr Mead warned councillors about the impact on his business when the district council’s planning board met in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday evening (January 18).

He said: “I’ve got the industrial unit next door, I’ve had it for 18 years. I’ve got 50 employees, 25 trucks – I run a 24-hour operation, with 16 night movements.

“I’ve got 500 deliveries and collections a day. I’m looking to expand that, and I have been for the last 12 years.

“This land is really not for residential use. We’re one of the largest employers in Frome – if I could have expanded next door, we’ve have had an extra 30 or 40 jobs, easily.

“To cut a long story short, we can’t expand our business and we’re looking at a site in Melksham – so the employment from Frome unfortunately could be lost in the near-future.”

Councillor Damon Hooton, who chaired the meeting, claimed it was not certain Mr Mead would need to relocate, given the closure of another business in the same part of Frome.

He said: “This for me is a natural area for housing to go.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to impact on the business – but there is another large site further down the road which is closing down in 18 months’ time.”

Somerset County Gazette: The planned entrance to a new development of 24 homes on Cherry Grove in Frome.The planned entrance to a new development of 24 homes on Cherry Grove in Frome. (Image: Google Street View)

Mr Hooton subsequently clarified on Twitter that he was referring to Saputo Dairy UK (formerly Dairy Crest), which is based at the eastern end of Manor Road.

He said: “Saputo indicated last year they’re are closing the site and moving to Nuneaton. The site already takes HGVs, has good links to road network and doesn’t adversely impact residential areas nearby.”

Councillor Edric Hobbs said he was concerned about the amount of noise new residents would have to endure, given the site’s predominantly industrial location.

He said: “My worry is noise mitigation with the industrial site. Has it been thought of carefully enough?

“Sometimes it seems to me that social housing gets built in not the most salubrious areas – near railway lines, for instance.”

Councillor Laura Waters said the land would be better used by turning it into open green space for the existing residents.

She argued: “If this was the other way around and the homes were already there, and the business owner was trying to set up here, we would have said no. I think the county council is being short-sighted.”

Councillor Nigel Hewitt-Cooper spoke in favour of the plans, arguing that the potential loss of a business was not a sufficient reason in planning law to turn them down.

He said: “I think the only downside to this is Andy Mead not being able to expand – but that’s not a planning issue, unfortunately.

“I really feel for him – he’s employing 50 guys there and doing a damn good job of it.”

The board ultimately voted to approve the plans by 12 votes to two.