14th January 2020
Campaigners from the “Save Dartington” and “Don’t Bury Dartington Under Concrete” have increased pressure on Trustees of the internationally-renowned but beleaguered Dartington Hall Trust this week.Campaigners are seeking to prevent the Trust from selling off 8.7 hectares of land for housing because of the serious impacts that the air pollution and congestion arising from unsustainable mass housing would have on the local community and, in particular, vulnerable people. They are also challenging the Trust to put into practice its stated values, rather than operating in a way that appears to be completely contrary to everything it stands for.
- Issued a formal notice (attached) to the Trust outlining deep-seated concerns if the Trust goes ahead with its planned sale of large areas of land in Dartington village to a developer. The campaign groups have highlighted their concerns in relation to environmental, health and equality impacts, the conflict between what the Trust says it is doing as a leader in combatting climate change whilst giving the go-ahead for an unsustainable mass housing development on its doorstep, and highlighting its moral, legal and fiduciary duties to properly engage with the community in an open and honest way. Trustees would be obliged to disclose these concerns to any prospective developer.
- In a separate move, “Don’t Bury Dartington Under Concrete” has applied to South Hams District Council to designate Broom Park Field an Asset of Community Value. This designation, if successful, would identify this land as having, as its main purpose, furthering the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community. Once listed, the local community can then enact the Community Right to Bid which gives them a moratorium period of six months to determine if they can raise the finance to purchase the asset. The application makes a compelling case – to involve the community and pupils from 7 educational establishments within walking distance to reestablish its habitats, plant thousands of trees and be a scientifically studied test bed for restoring agricultural land to diverse habitats and carbon sinks – a real answer to the climate and ecological emergency.
Dartington Hall Trust is currently running at a loss and is proposing selling off land on its estate for housing. Campaigners are arguing that the Trust must do more to find viable alternative solutions to its financial situation and that the proposed asset sale will not solve its underlying problems. The Trust is unable to restrict the potential for mass housing on the site.
…they are responsible for presiding over a loss-making institution now for a number of years
“We fail to understand how the Trustees, many of whom have made strong personal commitments to tackling climate change, can countenance the idea that the best way forward is for mass housing on its estate when the negative emissions and other impacts are clear to see. We simply do not think it is possible to square the commitment the Trust has made to be a “testbed and model for a sustainable society” and to be carbon neutral in 5 years when its plans involve trashing the local environment. We hope the individual Trustees will now be asking themselves whether they want this to be their legacy.”
Trudy Turrell, who chairs “Don’t Bury Dartington Under Concrete”, said, “At a time when many organisations have declared a climate emergency, it is enormously disappointing that the Trust – despite its own declarations about the importance of sustainability – seems intent on selling land to volume developers. We believe that with imagination and ingenuity, and working with and not against the local community, that better options are available. That, after all, is what the Trust says it wants to do. Now they must follow up the rhetoric by working with us to find an alternative way forward. Our application for a designation of the land as an Asset of Community Value is designed to encourage them to now work with us.”
In relation to the Trust’s financial situation, Trudy added, “I welcome the fact that the Trustees are now more open about the financial challenges they face. Yet, as they admit, they are responsible for presiding over a loss-making institution now for a number of years. Given their failure to grip the situation in the past, it is hard to trust that they now have the best solution to mitigate the Trust’s financial woes going forward. We are calling for them to halt the sale of land so that an alternative, more community focused, and ecological friendly option can be developed.”
Councilor Georgina Allen, who chairs the Planning Committee for Totnes Town Council said, “We don’t buy the assurances that the land will be used for a limited number of eco-friendly homes. The temptation for the Trust to find a way of maximizing their income from the sale of land and put their environmental credentials to one side will be too much.”
The campaign groups are seeking further meetings with the Trustees to continue to press their case.
Editing Note -19th February 2020: This article has been edited following a statement from Dartington Trust that a statement saying they had ‘lost control of their financial situation” is incorrect. “We have never said that and we are in absolute control of our finances, as our certified accounts attest”