There has been a lot going on! We are pleased to be able to update you on the work of Totnes Community Development Society, which many of you have been involved with over the last few months, and more opportunities coming shortly for thousands more people locally to participate, including through opening up membership of the Society this summer…

Bat licence granted for Atmos Totnes

The Made Community Right to Build Order for Atmos Totnes was achieved after thousands of members of the community contributed to the design and planning process, and took part in the local referendum. Atmos Totnes has been designed by the community for the community to provide 62 truly affordable homes, 37 apartments for older people and 7051 m2 of workspace and community facilities.

Since gaining planning permission for the scheme, Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS) has been busy meeting conditions required by the Order. These have included obtaining a European Protected Species Licence for managing and supporting bats during and after construction – a legal requirement when bats are on a development site.

Bats on a building site affect development timescales. For this first stage, we have to carefully co-ordinate ecology (an integral part of the community’s brief as much as a legal requirement), asbestos removal and demolition of the old buildings.

We are delighted that Natural England has now granted TCDS the Bat Licence. Amongst other things, the Licence details the building of a bat house next to the leat, for the bats’ permanent residence. Now we can move on with the next stage of development.

Other work with Environment Agency and on the Brunel Building

Another task for TCDS is working with our engineers to apply for Environment Agency permits. Like Natural England, the Environment Agency has been a statutory consultee on Atmos Totnes for several years. Following planning permission, permits must be obtained before any further site works. Atmos Totnes provides the final part of the flood defence works for Totnes, so it makes an important contribution to the future protection of our town.

Following feedback from heritage consultants, project architects have been adding detail to designs for the Brunel Building, set to be a working enterprise and community space for Totnes. Further investigative work will conclude this phase and we will share, and seek feedback on, the resulting plans with the community. We hope this will be within the next few months.

Membership of TCDS

This is a chance to own an equal share in deciding the future of our town’s community-run facilities
Atmos Totnes is a great opportunity for people in the town to decide what is built here and how it is built. It will be owned in perpetuity by the community of Totnes. We have always said that membership of TCDS would be opened out to all, to give everyone the chance to own an equal share in TCDS. Each member will get an equal vote in the running of the Society, and equal rights and responsibilities over the control of our community-owned facilities.

We are opening up TCDS membership this summer. Look out for further messages so that you can apply for membership and encourage others, for true local democracy in local development. For friends and neighbours who want similar alerts on the membership offer, please ask them to sign-up to the newsletter list.

Totnes’ Golden Iris contribute to government Green Paper on mental health

The efforts of last year’s Golden Iris Festival team to support positive mental health in our community has continued: they have contributed to national policy.

The Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care published a Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision several months ago. They invited the co-founders of the Golden Iris Festival to visit parliament to discuss government proposals for intervention on mental health through education. Their valuable contributions are acknowledged, alongside evidence from other experts, within the recently published Green Paper response on mental health: failing a generation.

We are extremely proud to work with this group and many other young people in this community. They are actively sharing their knowledge and skills in creating spaces of respect, positive mental health and creative activities for young and vulnerable people in Totnes. Their work continues, as the growing group plans to incorporate the Golden Iris Festival into an events programme through the Elmhirst Building on Ashburton Road later this year, in partnership with TCDS. Watch this space.

Essential services and activities through the Mansion

Since TCDS took on the running of the Mansion on Fore Street we have had a huge job to commission urgent repairs and to survey the building thoroughly. We are still working hard to ensure this valuable space stays in community use into the future.

Local groups and organisations continue to approach us to offer activities, services and ideas that benefit the local community. When we arrived, there were 17 organisations regularly using the space: now there are 73. Many groups are keen to tell you about what they offer so that you can join in. Please follow this link to the first Mansion Directory, which is growing by the day. If you want to join-in and run activities through the meeting, craft and hall space see the website for more info.

Thank you for reading and see you soon,
Directors, Totnes Community Development Society