A COMMUNITY campaign to turn a derelict industrial Totnes site into an eco-friendly housing and business development has received a boost from a former agriculture minister. Lord Deben, also known as former Secretary of State for Agriculture John Gummer, gave the Atmos campaign his backing.

The Atmos Totnes project is working to bring the former Dairy Crest site in Totnes into community ownership and develop it as ‘the heart of a new economy’, with a mixed development, owned and managed by, and for the benefit of, the community.

The campaign has already gathered support from veteran broadcaster and Dittisham home owner Jonathan Dimbleby and local MP Dr Sarah Wollaston. Lord Deben has recently praised the Atmos Totnes proposals, saying the current Government’s localism agenda made such projects more possible.

He said: “First of all it seems to have been approached with a sensible economic eye. Sometimes people believe that if they’re doing the right thing, they don’t have to think about the realities of the pounds, shillings and pence, and we’re in a world in which so many things have failed, even when they’ve got off the ground, because people haven’t got the economics right.

“It seems to me that the Atmos project really has thought that through in a serious way”. He added: “The second thing I like about it is the imagination.

“I think all sorts of ideas have been put together here which really are exciting, which individually may not be remarkable, but together, as a group, really do offer something very special to the locality.”

So far, Atmos site owners Dairy Crest says it is in talks with them as well as potential interested parties for the site.

Rob Hopkins, who kick started the worldwide Transition Town movement in Totnes and has been active on the Atmos project, said the group was working to put pressure on Dairy Crest which has spent the past two years trying unsuccessfully to sell the site.

They want to work with them, and to demonstrate that they represent the best way for Dairy Crest to realise any value from the site.

He said: “Every day of the campaign an ‘Atmos Voice’ is added to our campaign’s website, a member of the community speaking up in support of the scheme.

“This has built up into an impressive diversity of community voices, a common message emerging of anger and sadness at the state of dereliction of the site, excitement about the potential it represents, and a wealth of ideas as to how the site could become a mixed use development, supporting a range of small businesses, showcasing low carbon building and technologies and creating a space for the arts and innovation.”

Representatives from Atmos Totnes will hold a meeting with Dairy Crest on Friday, May 4.

Lord Deben added: “Dairy Crest is a good company, and it is a company which understands the importance of what it does to the communities it serves and, therefore, this is an area where I think it ought to think very carefully and see how it can best progress what is, after all, the one opportunity which is there for this site.

“It’d be different if it were competing between a whole lot of different ideas.

“It hasn’t got any others, so I’d suggest that it really does its best to make this one work”.

A Dairy Crest spokesman confirmed the meeting between the company and the Atmos campaign group.

She said: “We will be meeting with them on May 4 to consider their proposal. We hope to be able to announce a project manager soon.

“We are still considering all other options.”

For more information on the Atmos Campaign, log on to www.atmostotnes.org

Original article here.