Totnes community building project gazumped

planning application

The well established plans of a local community group to build affordable homes have been thwarted, after a property developer gazumped them to purchase the site.

The Totnes Community Development Society in Devon (TCDS) had planned to buy a former creamery site in order to build 62 affordable homes and 37 homes for older members of the community. The site was once home to Dairy Crest and is adjacent to the railway station that closed in 2007.

The project, known as Atmos Totnes, was launched in 2014 and had planned to have also provided a minimum of 160 jobs as well as providing public facilities, such as a health and wellbeing centre and a venue for music and arts.

Atmos Totnes is one of the first Community Right to Build Order processes to be run in England. The Community Right to Build was launched on 6th April 2012 and forms part of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 contained within the Localism Act 2011.

The Atmos Totnes building project was publicly supported by several celebrities, including Tim Smit, Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Brian Eno, and the project received 86% support in a survey of local people in 2016.

The government’s Community Right to Build initiative approved TCDS’s plans and it was incorporated into the Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan.

TCDS has already spent over £1 million on the proposal and had received £200,000 of government money.

However, in January 2021 the site was acquired by Fastglobe, a firm based in Essex for £1.35 million. The company has a portfolio of construction projects including performance venues, office towers, luxurious hotels, education spaces, and medical research and healthcare facilities.

The TCDS described the sale as ‘outrageous’ and said it was looking at legal options with South Hams District Council. Options may include compulsory purchase of the site.

Details of the planning application for the building project can be viewed online here: