A single Totnes Pound – that is what a group has paid for the derelict Dairy Crest land in what is a unique community deal to finally make the town’s Atmos Project dream come true.
The Totnes Community Development Society has teamed up with a development company and the dairy Crest landowners to redevelop the eight-acre town centre site which has been lying unused and locked up for the last seven years.
The site is being divided into three section – the largest section at the rear of the site beyond the leat, the area nearest to the railway station on the other side of the leat, and a third section which runs down the edge of the railway station approach.
The second section, which includes the listed Brunel building and the landmark dairy chimney, is the land which has been snapped up by the Totnes Community Development Society for just one Totnes Pound.
The first area has been bought by the Bournemouth-based McCarthy and Stone, which will be building housing for older people and working with the community society to develop the rest of the area.
The third area of land will be designed through community consultation and will almost certainly be bought up by the community society once a land value has been fixed.
Next Wednesday, a public meeting is being held at St John’s Church to launch a consultation process which will result in a referendum in about a year’s time. It is planned to use the Localism Act to submit a Community Right to Build Order.
Community society trustee Rob Hopkins said “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 anywhere before”.
It is planned to have completed a masterplan for the site by May next year, a referendum will be held in the autumn and, if the town says yes, building could begin in March 2016.
As the Dairy Crest site was thrown open to the public for the first time in seven years, Mr Hopkins told a crowd of more than 150 people: “Today we can announce that seven years after the site closed, thanks to an extraordinary amount of vision and hard work from local people and positive commitment from Dairy Crest, we have signed an agreement with Dairy Crest and McCarthy and Stone that will define the future of this site.
“This is a community that has shown many times that it is creative, brilliant, happy to lead through new and practical ways of envisioning the future”.
The community initiative to try and sort out a future of the site and bring it into community ownership began just two months after its closure. Six months later the Atmos Project was born.
Last week the deal over the land was finally signed and the proposed future of the site unveiled to the public at a cake cutting ceremony on the dairy site itself.
Town Crier Don Hobbs announced the proceedings with a cry before the gates to the site were unlocked and community society trustees led its supporters inside.
In the shadow of the historic old Brunel building, they outlined the future of the site.
Mr Hopkins said “This announcement represents the community taking a first significant step towards taking greater control of its 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”.