CAMPAIGNERS cheered as they heard they are close to securing a special ‘game changer’ agreement for the Atmos Project on the Dairy Crest site in Totnes.  And TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, unveiled as the project’s newest patron, spoke of the ‘incredible buzz’ he felt when he came to ‘trailblazing’ Totnes.

The scheme could give people confidence that there were other ways of living their lives and running their communities, he insisted.

Around 150 people, some carrying symbols of what they would like to see created on the site once it is in community ownership, gathered at the gateway to the eight acre Dairy Crest site in Station Road.

The crowd were treated to rallying calls from both Transition Town’s founder Rob Hopkins and the TV chef.

Rob said: ‘Over the past six months we’ve had a campaign to try and bring this site into community ownership. There has been a big push to try and accelerate that, and we are, it feels, about three weeks away from signing an exclusivity agreement with Dairy Crest.’

At this point the crowd burst into excited cheers, and Rob said: ‘It’s thanks to you all, and it’s thanks to the momentum that this campaign has generated.’

That was partly due to the patrons who had come on board – MP Sarah Wollaston, broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, Eden Project founder Tim Smit, Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud and now Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The TV chef said whenever he came there was always an ‘incredible buzz’ about Totnes. ‘I’ve felt the vibes, it’s a wonderful place, but it’s more than a great community it’s a trail blazing town and it’s incredibly important what you are doing here to give people confidence all over the country that there are other ways of living your lives and running your communities, you don’t always have to kow-tow to big business and the multi nationals.

‘You can plough your own furrow and do your own thing,’ he said.

‘There could not be a better example of the potential for that than this incredible semi derelict building behind us, and also I understand from Rob, an amazing eight acre site. What an extraordinary opportunity and what a great statement that places like this should not be allowed to lie idle until the highest bidder comes along.

‘It should be looked on as a fantastic opportunity for communities. There must be sites like this all over Britain. Imagine if you can fulfil your dream here in Totnes what an incredible message that will be sent out right through the country and it will give heart to so many people, who have already taken great heart from the Totnes Transition movement. It will be that extra boost.’

Earlier Rob said he had a meeting planned with Dairy Crest’s property people for Monday (Sept 10) and he hoped the board would make a decision later in the month.

There was no-one else in the frame and what might be a problem for conventional developer wasn’t for Atmos, he said.

‘The most important thing is that when this happens it is a complete game changer for Totnes, in terms of belief, and what’s possible in terms of the other developments happening in the town, couldn’t we do them differently? It’s exciting.’

The Atmos campaign plans a mixture of spaces for new businesses, affordable housing and public space, all brought into community ownership on the Dairy Crest site which closed in 2007.

Reprinted with thanks to the Totnes Times.  Photos by Richard Davies.