A Town Under Attack!


I have been informed that Churchill Retirement Homes is in the process of purchasing the Co-op site with a view to demolishing the building and redeveloping it with 40 or so retirement apartments extending into the car park but leaving the small existing retail units. No doubt a planning application will follow. If this is the case then it is important there is a community wide consultation on the best use for this important site in the centre of Totnes before any application is determined.

the town cannot afford to lose any further valuable car parking space to development such as the proposed retirement home on the Co-op site.

It is my view the loss of this important retail space and car parking will adversely affect the vibrancy of the town centre as well as increase the existing population imbalance. In considering an application for a further retirement home on the Co-op site the planners need to bear in mind that in addition to the existing retirement/care/nursing homes in the
town there is in place planning permission for 268 similar homes/places at Baltic Wharf, Steamer Quay and the Atmos Project. These remain to be built and I fear these developments will have an adverse impact on our local heath services and particularly the surgeries.



With the possibility of a planning application for a retirement home on the Co-op site the car park there is at risk. This coupled with the loss of parking at the rear of Lloyd’s Bank due to housing development could result in the town losing up to 100 car parking spaces. Just to make matters worse a report submitted to the last Full Council meeting of the Town Council mentions possible development on the town centre car parks owned by SHDC. If these developments go ahead it will be a disaster for Totnes as the loss of the limited parking we have will simply drive people to shop and visit elsewhere.

At a recent SHDC meeting I proposed that the Council address the long-term future and needs of our town centres in South Hams. It was agreed that a report should be prepared and presented to Members in November. One of the key areas to be addressed is the future car parking needs of Totnes so as to ensure that people are attracted to the town and not deterred by the lack of car parking.

In my opinion the town cannot afford to lose any further valuable car parking space to development such as the proposed retirement home on the Co-op site. This has to be a key factor when determining any future development in the centre of Totnes.



When I learnt earlier this year that the Co-op site was up for sale I requested the administration at South Hams District Council to consider purchasing it for the benefit of the community. After all the Council had previously considered purchasing commercial property elsewhere in the UK for investment purposes. An investment fund of £80 million had
been mentioned. I considered that the ownership of the Co-op site by SHDC would benefit the community and certainly protect or improve the important town centre area.

Unfortunately my request to purchase the site was not taken up by the administration and in my opinion an opportunity was lost. Furthermore the decision not to proceed was made without any consultation or discussion with Members. In other words, this is an autocratic decision which in my view is shortsighted and to the detriment of the community. Totnes may well pay the price.



There has been a planning application submitted for a commercial development on the Ashburton Road and being one of the main gateways into Totnes called Puddavine Yard. The public can comment on this application by going to South Hams District Council website and going to that page dealing with planning applications. The planning reference is 2479/18/FUL and full details of the application are available.

The site already has outline permission for employment purposes and this was granted in 2014 along with the 50 adjoining houses. The application just submitted is for detailed permission and consists of buildings formed out of shipping containers. It is my view the proposed design is inappropriate especially as the site is one of the main entrances into the town. The designers should be asked to come up with a more appropriate design. The development will be visible from the Ashburton Road and is situated behind the controversial red brick boundary wall. It is proposed that the development be constructed from shipping containers and consists of shops, studio and office space as well as a cafe.

From the images shown in the planning application I am of the view that shipping containers dressed up as offices and dominating the entrance to Totnes is wholly inappropriate. Time for the applicant to go back to the drawing board.

Cllr John Birch
SHDC Member for Totnes


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[…] Totnes Pulse recently ran an excellent piece by South Hams District Councillor John Birch, summing up four situations involving SHDC that are not in the community’s best interest. For […]

Barry Wheeler
Barry Wheeler
2 years ago

So after the song and dance about the wholly out of character red brick wall has finished the real reason for its existence is made clear. It was never going to be anything else despite granting the planning application for the whole site with a condition that the Devon bank be reinstated, all the representations, reporting, complaints etc were swept aside as they always were going to be. The reason is we are to have a wholly inappropriate development that looks like someone has tipped over a box of giant Lego. Despite that road being one of the most beautiful ways into Totnes it has had an estate of little red boxes plonked down right as we enter town, boxes with no regard for the surroundings nor their occupants. That little gem is a master class in cramming as many saleable units into the given space as possible, something it shares with all the other fields full of boxes that have been dumped on this town.
The so-called ‘design’ of this ‘commercial’ area is just another cynical way to extract the maximum return for the minimum outlay and it destroys the beauty of that part of the Ashburton road leaving the only remaining pockets of trees and greenery as a series of living museum displays of the roads past.
So much of the inherent character of Totnes is being destroyed and despite the absence of big names in the high street it is going the way of places like Slapton and Dartmouth, where only the high earners can afford the high prices of all the things that no one needs in the shops that all look the same.
No doubt as time passes the visitors and residents will all be sporting sickles blue deck shoes, cream or white chinos and blue striped tee shirts, with the wealthiest wearing a blue cap with an anchor on it. All the restaurants will be in barges moored on the river except those catering for the hordes of retirees who prefer dry land with parking for their hi-tech mobility scooters.
We need a good residential art college, not retirement homes, a modern theatre not shipping container offices. We need someone on SHDC who lives in Totnes and isn’t independently wealthy, in fact we need more than one then maybe , just maybe we might have someone who could protect the integrity of the town.

James Sawyer
James Sawyer
2 years ago

Having looked at the planning application for Puddavine Yard I think it is a great idea. The re-use of shipping containers, cleverly designed and well presented, in my opinion, in a location that offers employment and facilities such as cafe and fitness studio for the many new houses being built should be something for Totnes to be proud of.

Parking for the site meets all national parking standards; 49 spaces (5% disabled) which also has cycle storage and is less than 1km from the train station and walkable for many residents.

The only part of the development that is 3 storeys high is still only of a height of the neighbouring properties.

Graham Howard
Graham Howard
2 years ago

It all looks very false with trees around it. Height wise. 3 storeys is too much. it looks like a dumping ground for shipping containers. The parking shown surely wouldn’t allow for all those offices etc and a cafe. Where are the excess cars going to park ?. It doesn’t look right. Have planning been to view site at rush hour. I lived on Dartington Estate for 24 years.That junction and area has always been a bottleneck.