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Totnes Times: Atmos project to unveil plans for derelict site in town centre

September 24, 2014

From today’s Totnes Times: “The future of the Totnes Dairy Crest site, which has been left derelict for the past seven years, will be revealed tomorrow as multimillion-pound community plans for the eight acre site are unveiled.

A community group behind the unique Atmos Project has finally hammered out a deal with the dairy company and a private developer to reshape the vital town centre site, with a project involving affordable homes, business use and public space.

The project has been seven years in the making as community groups began the battle to take over the dairy site beside Totnes Railway Station almost immediately after Dairy Crest shut down the site in 2007, with the loss of 180 jobs.

The Totnes Community Development Society, the group behind the Atmos Project, has kept the exact details of its plans for the site under wraps until tomorrow’s announcement.

But Society trustee and founder of the Transition Town movement Rob Hopkins has revealed it will be a partnership scheme involving the society, Dairy Crest and Bournemouth-based developers McCarthy and Stone.

Mr Hopkins said: “The project has only got as far as it has because of the incredible support from this community over the past seven years and we want them to be the first to hear the news.

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“We plan to explain in detail the proposals and outline the process, inviting the community to be part of the process from this point onwards in what we believe will be a national first in community planning”.

The Society is aiming to unveil its plans at the gates of the Dairy Crest site at 1pm tomorrow.

Dairy Crest was one of the town’s biggest employers until it closed its Totnes operation, which occupied a major site stretching from Station Road to the River Dart. It was home to a landmark 100ft-high chimney and a listed building, which was built by Brunel as part of his Atmospheric Railway experiment more than 150 years ago.

The site was used as a dairy for more than 70 years before the closure, which came as a major employment blow and left the town in shock.

The community initiative to try to sort out a future for the site and bring it into community ownership began just two months after the closure. Six months later the Atmos Project was born.

A Heads of Terms agreement between the Totnes Community Development Society and Dairy Crest was signed in June last year to kickstart the development of a masterplan for the site.

The Society and Dairy Crest have been working together to get the frameworks in place for a legal agreement ever since.

During that time the Atmos Project has won the support of Eden Project founder Tim Smit, radio presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, River Cottage chef and TV presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and television presenter Kevin McCloud, all of whom are project patrons.

Initial plans for the Atmos Project proclaimed that it was at the “forefront of the sustainable technology revolution”.

The project is intended to comprise: environmentally progressive business facilities; high-specification offices; some permanent, some hot-desk; live/work units; affordable, sustainable, well-designed homes; multipurpose leisure, cultural, arts/crafts and community space; an education, visitor and exhibition centre; a restaurant and other food outlets; and guest annexes.

In 2012, the Atmos Project was predicting that it could deliver 35 hectares of employment land, 500 jobs and 190 homes, of which at least 50 per cent would be affordable.

Mr Hopkins said the details of the final plans for the huge site would be on show tomorrow, adding that it will be “a mixture of genuinely affordable homes, a business incubator and new public space”.

He also said that, once the proposals had been unveiled, the society would launch into a consultation process with the town so that everyone would have the opportunity to have an input into the project.

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