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Santa's Grotto Frome Escapes Eviction After Council Planning Row

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<img src=”https://storage.googleapis.com/prod-zenger-storage/image/810c5d9a-7055-40ce-80fd-8ec1660d92d3.jpg” alt=”A Santa Claus has escaped eviction from his Grotto just before Christmas – after winning a planning row with the council. SWNS”>

A Santa Claus has escaped eviction from his Grotto just before Christmas – after winning a planning row with the council.

“Santa’s Grotto Frome” has provided families and children a meeting with Father Christmas, Mrs Claus and the elves for six years.

They set up at a new site this year, which consists of two small wooden buildings located within Critchill Manor Estate in the Somerset town.

A Santa Claus has escaped eviction from his Grotto just before Christmas – after winning a planning row with the council. SWNS
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But when the family-run business applied for planning permission in April, it was rejected by Somerset Council in July due to ‘sustainability concerns’ over the lack of public transport accessible to the site.

Planning officers at Somerset Council said as the grotto was in a rural location with no public transport links – people would have to rely on private cars to get there, which is against “planning policy.”

 

The grotto buildings were built onsite despite this and enforcement officers were put on standby.

But Santa was given a last minute reprieve when a follow-up application with amended conditions was approved by the East Area Planning Committee.

Craig Gillett, 61, who is Santa at the Grotto alongside his sister who plays Mrs Claus, said: “We’re thrilled.

“Overall there was a number of councillors who were very embarrassed that something so silly had to come to a committee meeting over a ‘sustainability’ issue – when sustainability was all about housing developments.

“There were still two people that voted against planning permission, the Chair himself abstained but the rest was a full house voting to pass it.”

 

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Clare Perry, 59, who is Mrs Claus at Santa’s Grotto Frome, joked: “We’ll have a glass of cherry tonight.”

She added: “There’s been lots of work and it makes you wonder how somebody can say no who hasn’t even seen it and it can just be that easy.

“It’s been a really tough year – the relief is massive.”

Santa’s Grotto Frome consists of Craig, Clare as well as Gordon Perry, 57, Clare’s husband.

The family were searching for a new site this year when they were approached by landowners who own the 186 acres of Critchill Manor Estate.

Santa’s Grotto Frome are not the only community business operating on the space, however, as it is also home to numerous other trades including a cafe and the local Frome Youth football team.

Craig said: “There is trading already on the existing site.

“The football team alone regularly have over 300 cars there supporting their teams and events.

A Santa Claus has escaped eviction from his Grotto just before Christmas – after winning a planning row with the council. SWNS

“The council state our Grotto is not sustainable because there is no public transport to get to the site – but you wouldn’t go on a bus to a golf club.

“Our previous site had no bus route.

“We have a booking system through a ticket source, so have a mix of two families per 20 minute sessions.

“That is roughly six cars an hour, compared to the amount of regular cars already permitted to site.

“Our six little cars have very little, if any, impact whatsoever especially as some will be electric.”

Craig explained they were informed by the landowner to apply for planning permission due to complaints about previous projects from a local source – so to get planning permission was the ‘best route to follow’.

Craig states their location is quiet, out of the way and “hurts no one, but not remote as the council describes”- and they took out a £20,000 loan to pay for the buildings.

 

He said: “So we have set up a spot that used to be a camping field where they hosted all sorts of activities – there was already remit there for that.

“We erected two wooden buildings – that people can have in their back garden without planning permission.

“They are nice quality wooden units that go into the background itself – they are not an eye sore.

“It is an ideal position for us, we are not hurting anybody or encroaching on the field.

“We didn’t think it would take this long and we had to put them up in our commitment to the families who support Santa’s Grotto Frome, its taken six months to set up”.

The grotto is fully booked every weekend until Christmas and the family “look forward” to continue sharing Christmas cheer.

The decision by councillors went against the recommendation by its officials who said the conditions had not gone far enough to alleviate concerns.

A spokesperson for Somerset Council stated: “The application was approved, subject to various conditions.

“The full decision will be published in due course.”

To find out more about Santa’s Grotto Frome, visit: https://www.facebook.com/SantasGrottoFrome

But they say Somerset Council has threatened ‘enforcement’ to take the buildings down.

 

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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