THE Atmos Project in Totnes has been boosted by support from to leading  figures in the eco world – television presenter Kevin McCloud and Eden Project founder Tim Smit.  The two are backing visionary plans to develop affordable housing, new businesses and open space for public meetings on the old Dairy Crest site.

The pair join broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby and Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston as patrons of Atmos.  The team behind Atmos is hoping to buy the site from the dairy giant, which pulled out in 2007, and wants to secure a lock-out agreement which would see the site taken off the market while negotiations are held with Atmos over a period of time.

The scheme would reflect the ethos of the Transition Town Totnes movement, which aims to make the town more sustainable in energy use.  Atmos plans to offer people shares in the site and is creating an industrial and provident society to run the site for the benefit of the community.

Kevin McCloud, whose TV series have done a huge amount to promote the concept of green building, said: ‘For years and years, development has been top-down, and it’s been a job where people have bought and sold and traded it and upped its value through the planning process, only to build rather crappy homes and buildings on it in the end.

I’m much more interested in the Gandhian approach, the bottom-up democratic where people as communities work together to empower themselves to take control.  ‘There’s nothing more exciting than seeing people taking control for where they live.

‘I think Atmos is important because Totnes was one of those early Transition Towns, so to see it flowering, to see it moving on to the next level, the next stage of community empowerment and ownership, is really exciting.

‘But I think it also speaks volumes for where the whole nation, indeed where as a society, we could go”.

Tim Smit, who turned Eden, outside St Austell, from an idea into a £144 million project that is now a huge international success, said ‘One of the great things we need to know about the UK is that it was once the manufacturing capital of the world, we were the masters of invention, and at the heart of the Atmos Project is a paean to the work of probably the greatest engineer who’s ever lived in Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

‘How appropriate than in a Transition Town, we see a place that is about making, about imagination, about creativity.  Our future depends on getting our young and our old to get curious again, to make wonderful things, which actually make the future something which is worthwhile. I’m really pleased to be a patron of this project’.

Dr Wollaston has publicly supported the scheme saying: ‘When it comes to localism, as government minister Greg Clarke put it recently in the House of Commons: ‘What Totnes does today, the rest of the country does tomorrow.’