This is the statement read out today at the site gates:

“Today, on Thursday September 25th 2014 at 1 o’clock, we gather at the gates of the former Daws Creamery /Cow&Gate /Unigate /Dairy Crest site (depending on how old you are), to announce that a historic agreement has been reached in relation to its future.  In 2007 this site closed, and valuable jobs in our community were lost. 

Around that time, Atmos Totnes, initially as the ‘Sustainable Business Park Group’, began as a community campaign with the intention of working to bring the site into community ownership and to put the community in charge of what happens here.

The Dairy Crest site being opened for the first time in 7 years to invite the community in

The gates being opened for the first time in 7 years, by Dairy Crest’s Olivia Seccombe, to invite the community in

Today we can announce that 7 years after the site closed, thanks to an extraordinary amount of vision and hard work from many local people, and positive commitment from Dairy Crest, we have signed an agreement with Dairy Crest, and with McCarthy & Stone, that will define the future of this site.  This is a community that has shown many times that it is creative, brilliant and happy to lead through new and practical ways of envisioning the future.  Today’s announcement exemplifies this.

On 18th August​ 2014 an agreement was signed by Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS), Dairy Crest, and McCarthy & Stone. The agreement sees the site in three parts, as detailed in the map below:

  • Part One will be purchased from Dairy Crest by McCarthy & Stone, and will be built to feature ​housing for older people​. McCarthy & Stone will work with TCDS in their development of this area of the site.​
  • Part Two will be purchased from Dairy Crest by the community of Totnes for the sum of One Totnes Pound.  This footprint includes the historic Brunel building.
  • Part Three of the site is more complex, but ultimately will be designed through community consultation.  TCDS have an Option Agreement for this part of the site. Once planning is approved Totnes Community Development Society will most likely exercise their Option Agreement and purchase the site. The final value of the site will be determined by the planning consent and the costs of the remediation and development works.

The 2012 Localism Act gives communities a number of significant new powers, one of which is a Community Right to Build Order (CRtBO).  This allows communities to design the development they wish to see and gives them a new route to planning.  From the beginning of next month, Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS) will be engaging the community in creating a masterplan for the whole site, including our proposals for a development of specialist housing for older people on this site.

Frances Northrop of TCDS reading part of this statement to the assembled audience.

Frances Northrop of TCDS reading part of this statement to the assembled audience.

In May 2015 TCDS will be submitting a CRtBO for Parts One and Two.  This means that what​ is built​, as well as how it’s built and to what standards, will be determined by this community.  To the best of our knowledge, this has never happened before, anywhere.

This announcement represents the community taking a first significant step towards taking greater control of its own destiny.  As a national first, it offers the potential to showcase a whole new approach to development, one based on community support, sustainability, a new economic model that builds and nurtures local economies, social justice, creativity, the arts and meeting the needs of this town rather than, as is so often the case, the needs of developers and distant investors.  For a town currently under siege from developers, demonstrating such a model could not be more timely.


So, all being well, we see the timetable of what happens next like this:

  • October 2014: Community consultation and site masterplanning work begins
  • An important date for your diary is 8th October when there will be a Public Meeting about Atmos at St Johns Church in Bridgetown. This will be an opportunity to further details about the site and the activities for the coming months. It is also a time when we will want to invite questions from the public about this plan.
  • May 2015: Masterplan complete.  The Community Right to Build Order is submitted.
  • Autumn 2015: Community referendum is held.
  • March 2016: Assuming a positive result in the referendum, work begins on site.

McCarthy & Stone have said: “we are delighted to be involved with this important project.  The site is of great significance to our country’s heritage and we are pleased to be able to bring it back into use, with the community. We look forward to working in partnership with the Totnes Community Development Society and local people through this pioneering approach to development”.

The incredible Atmos Totnes cake made by Julia Ponsonby of Schumacher College. It was as good as it looks.

At this point, Totnes Community Development Society would like to thank Dairy Crest for seeing that the future of the site should lie in the hands of local people.  We’d like to thank McCarthy & Stone for engaging with such openness and integrity in what will be a groundbreaking process which will take them into unfamiliar yet thrilling territory.  We’d like to thank our Patrons for their commitment and support. We would like to thank our MP, Dr. Sarah Wollaston, for her unfailing support.  And finally, we’d like to thank the community of this remarkable town for supporting Atmos Totnes over the last 7 years, this is a remarkable place, and what unfolds on this site will be a correspondingly remarkable.

May a thousand brilliant ideas flourish.

Trustees of Totnes Community Development Society: Frances Northrop, Ed Vidler, Rob Hopkins, Dave Chapman and Anna Lodge. 25 September 2014.

Date for your diary: Atmos Totnes Public Meeting. October 8th. 7.30pm. St John’s Church, Bridgetown, Totnes.