NewsTotnes Town

Finger on the Pulse….the Atmos appeal begins.

If you have been wondering what the heck is going on with the old Dairy Crest site, wonder no more.

Atmos Design Concept

Right Now…

Tomorrow (Dec 5) the owners, Fastglobe, go into battle for four days at a planning appeal it hopes will overturn South Hams planners’ refusal of both their plans for developing the site. On the other side is Totnes Community Builders – TCB, (previously known as Totnes Community Development Society), which after years of public consultations designed a scheme – called Atmos – that looked set to go ahead. It was given permission via a  Community Right to Build Order. It included the restoration of the Grade 2 listed Brunel building, with its landmark chimney; 62 homes, work space and a vital flood protection scheme. But, as we know, in 2019 the site was sold by owners Saputo UK (who owned Dairy Crest) to the Essex-based Fastglobe. Soon after, the old CRtBO lapsed and so Fastglobe was able to submit its own design for the site – probably the most important in Totnes and arguably in the whole South Hams. The company first put forward a scheme including holiday chalets and a spa.. Rejected. A revised scheme, with housing and mixed use – including a restored Brunel building – was also turned down.

Costs…

The cost of the major clean up works – including asbestos removal – and flood defences is a key part of the story. Hemmed in by the railway line , housing, and the river, with old structures to demolish ,it’s a tricky site.

Documents submitted to the inquiry reveal that in 2019 an independent valuation said that the huge sums needed effectively meant the site was a £55.3 million black hole. The valuers said the cleaned site was therefore worth £460,000. The Brunel building just £25,000. TCB says Saputo agreed it would accept £460,000 and a share of the future development proceeds – around £5 million.

Atmos were awarded 2.7 million pounds of lottery funding for renovating the Brunel Building which they say is currently on hold but in January 2020 Saputo sold the site to Fastglobe for £1.35 million. Then Fastglobe sold an old office building for £325,000. Even the Brunel building – the historic heart of the whole deal – was put up for sale for £750,000 on a 999 year lease. The sale was later withdrawn.

 

Viability…

The firm argues that the Atmos scheme failed because it was not financially viable. It was called an “undeliverable fantasy ”. Totnes Community Builders argues that it did have the money in place to buy the site and develop the first phase. It says the Fastglobe plans are not commercially viable. Both sides say their schemes deliver what the planners want for the site.

Read All About It!

All the documents are on the SHDC website and you can go along to the hearing (if you register first).

It will also be live streamed here.
It’s now up to the planning inspector to judge whether Fastglobe should be allowed to proceed. If not, a revised Atmos project – which is on the launch pad for planning permission once more –
may get another chance.

So, what do you think? Let us know…

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Evelyn Burges
Evelyn Burges
6 months ago

The Atmos Project was conceived many years ago, and was a positive initiative. However, in subsequent years, the project has become more and more impractical – somehow, the team let it slip from their grasp, and now it is nothing but an idea, with no likelihood of it ever manifesting. Many residents of Totnes are sick of it, and would prefer almost anyone to build something on the site – or even plant it as a grassy space – rather than endure the endless speculation, and leaving us with a dangerous eyesore.

Ian Simcox-Heath
Ian Simcox-Heath
6 months ago

The vision of the site put forward by Atmos would be significantly more beneficial to the town than what has been submitted by Fastglobe. That’s not even a subjective comment since the alternative is a more extractive, money-making venture rather than one that prioritises community events, spaces and honouring Brunel’s legacy. What’s more been a matter of debate is the feasibility of such a vision. However what’s not fully appreciated is that we are no ordinary town. We are the town that punches way above our weight, that invented the idea of a Transition Town which has now gone global, that started the first reusable container shop, that fought off Costa to preserve more local independent businesses. Heck, one of its residents even invented the computer! Totnesians believe very strongly in their community and would lift heaven and earth to make the Atmos vision a feasible reality, if only given the chance. Here’s hoping they get that chance.

Fiona Green
Fiona Green
6 months ago

Atmos is the ONLY project for that site!
To me, it is socialism in action so I do hope
they win this appeal.

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