It’s been a while since we have put out an update – but hopefully you will see that the trustees have been busy behind the scenes both locally and across the region. This is an important moment for those of us who want to see safer active travel routes and there is plenty of good news to tell you about in this update.
Somerset has 6138 km of rights of way (footpaths and bridleways), but only 21% of that is available to cyclists and horse riders. FML trustees have signed up to the Somerset Rail to Trail Project, a collective of Somerset community trail-way groups. SRTTP have written to every local MP and County Cllr, asking for help with planning procedures, funding, maintenance and adoption of paths, with the aim of increasing the amount of multi user paths across the County. A recent SRTTP survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Somerset residents want this, that accessible traffic free routes will make a significant difference to many, and that increasing the quality of traffic-free off-road routes is the top choice of respondents for getting people out of their cars and engaging in Active Travel. In a recent Frome Town Council survey, improving cycling facilities in the town came out top of a wish list for things post lock-down. It’s time to take action on these findings.
The pandemic and accompanying lock down has actually given our campaign and projects a massive boost. There are now many more people who have discovered our lovely cycle paths and lanes for the first time and there is genuine pressure for change. Indeed many initiatives are taking place to help this revolution – Frome Town Council are exploring Safer School Streets for example and Somerset County Council have announced funding possibilities and road improvements that favour active travel over the car, with the aim of producing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP).
Importantly, Mendip District Council have appointed Greenways and Cycle Routes Ltd (GW&CR) to help them develop a network of multi use paths in the area. GW&CR will engage the support of community groups to enable sections, take forward applications for planning permission, achieve land assembly, and help lever in funding to carry out practical delivery. The group have a track record of achieving delivery against difficult odds with two local examples being the River Axe crossing at Brean and Tidenham Tunnel just outside of Chepstow – both of which had been attempted by others and abandoned as unachievable. They are now in place and highly valued by their communities. GW&CR have been active on the Strawberry line since day one (Axbridge to Cheddar, some 30 plus years ago), and have contributed to the delivery of major schemes elsewhere along the route, for example the A38 crossing west of Axbridge and the route through the Kings of Wessex site. Throughout this time GW&CR have also actively supported the considerable community energy found along these routes, without which nothing can happen. This is excellent news for Frome’s Missing Links and trustees have already met with and exchanged plans and schemes with GW&CR volunteers.
In another development, Frome Town Council has agreed to fund a cycle route to link Frome College, Stonebridge and the Commerce Park industrial area. Originally identified by Sustrans volunteers and championed by FML trustees this route largely exists already but requires signing, a dropped curb or two and surfacing on a small section. This could be an important addition to our town’s active travel infrastructure.
Elsewhere, FML trustees have continued to adapt plans for the Missing Links around Frome. Phase 2 from Great Elm to Elliots Lane already has planning permission granted and construction has started, but there are still on-going negotiations with one landowner, which has stalled the development of this route for now. However, an alternative route is being negotiated (details must remain confidential for now) and we still hope to complete Phase 2 in the not too distant future.
Our Phase 3 route from Weylands towards Selwood Lodge now has planning consent and the footpath diversion agreed. The route of the path has been fenced and a cattle grid, bridleway gate and style installed by volunteers. Next steps will be to surface the path as far as the slope up to the railway. We are investigating options for getting to Jack’s Lane and beyond and getting quotes for surfacing materials. Already things are looking very different on site. Thank you in particular to the Friday Crew for their excellent work.
The Friday Crew volunteers continue to improve and maintain the ecology along the Colliers Way and regularly cut back vegetation and help to build things – without them the cost of filling in the Missing Links would be even greater. Together they have saved the project many thousands of pounds already, so a massive thanks to them.
One of FML’s aims is to improve safe access south of Frome. Thanks to work done by FTC and FML trustees a multi use path now exists from Asda through to the edge of the newly built Edmund Park estate, which will eventually run out on the southern end of the development. Developers Persimmon have been good to their word and are currently constructing the path as far as their southern boundary. The short section at the southern end requires landowner permission but would provide a safe crossing of both the main line railway and the fast A361 and would also connect to the Feltham Lane route to Longleat.
In other news, we have been working with Edventure and their current students on a local cycling project and we held an extremely successful bike jumble with FTC that raised £3,700 for FML – an amazing result!
Finally, thank you to all of our volunteers, supporters, fund raisers, trustees, land owners and general public who continue to offer such support. Nothing could be achieved without this community spirit. I am extremely optimistic about the progress we could make in the next twelve months. Stay safe and watch this space!
Chair, Frome’s Missing Links