Puddavine Yard: Clever by half in the wrong location

Contributing Editor Perspective

Whatever finally happens to the proposed cargo container commercial/retail space at Puddavine Yard, it has so far provided an interesting glimpse into the strange machinations that attach themselves to the planning process.
For the uninitiated, a planning application has been submitted to South Hams District Council to use buffed up shipping containers to create what the developer calls a social hub, offering small scale “pop-up” shops, a wellbeing studio, flexible offices ranging from desk space to private offices and a cafe.  The gathering opposition to the proposal is due largely to its location at Nellies Wood , right alongside the recently completed Meadowside residential development and a prominent vision for visitors to the town arriving from Dartington.

The local developer Andrew Pink and his ERC Developments may eventually end up with something close to what he initially envisioned but so far I’m afraid he has suffered from a case of being “clever by half.” For starters, he’s played a bit footloose with the truth in the assertions he’s made about his dealings with the South Hams District Council planning officers; Pink has let it be known that after looking at his pre-planning applications, the SHDC officers encouraged him to move forward with the project. While it’s true the planning officers reminded Pink he needed to create 1,200 square metres of employment space, it’s not their job to encourage or discourage developers. Their job is to ensure that projects comply with existing planning regulations. That’s it.

One could argue that by not doing any preliminary marketing of the project with Totnes officials, he’s now encountering some significant headwinds. Of the 33 comments logged on the SHDC website, 80 percent are objections, including one from the Totnes Council itself. (Interestingly enough, the site is actually on the grounds within the jurisdiction of the Dartington Parish Council who will be meeting this Sunday, October 7, with local residents at the site to discuss matters.)
Pink and ERC have also reached out to a consultancy called Planning Potential, who from a look at their website, are kind of like the “Ghostbusters” of the planning world. Instead of fighting monsters though, they are called in when a planning application has hit a snag for whatever reason.

We are already seeing their handiwork in a letter that has gone out to citizens in the immediate area of Puddavine. The letter, which has a light, almost breezy air to it, lays out the thinking behind Puddavine Yard and let’s residents know that Pink is considering all kinds of changes, from reducing the overall height to increasing parking capacity.

having to react on an ad hoc basis to proposals such as this one, is not the way forward.

Strangely enough, he’s also willing to look at reducing the amount of employment space depending upon permission from SHDC. We will ultimately see where this all leads. The local residents will meet with Dartington elected officials on Sunday and there’s a strong likelihood that the project will come up for review before the full Planning Committee of South Hams District Council. But if we look beyond the granularity of Puddavine Yard itself, there are some ironies and some lessons to be taken away from it all.

Under any other circumstances and in a lot of other locations, Pink’s shipping containers would have been a perfect fit for the Totnesian eco-friendly way of life. By themselves they are an example of reusing material for another purpose. From every indication Pink himself is environmentally conscious and wanted that consciousness to permeate Puddavine.

If Pink’s plans are thwarted, there will be those who will shake their head and lament the town’s inability to embrace change. But embracing change and signing off on anything novel are two different things. There are all sorts of challenges at Totnes’ doorstep as we speak. If this town wants a balanced demographic, it will have to provide the infrastructure necessary to accommodate it. If it wants that change to come in a way that is additive, not dilutive, to the town’s unique character then it will have to work hard and make the right decisions along the way. And perhaps most importantly, if it wants to encourage job creation in a region so threadbare in that department, it is going to have to be creative, resolute and full of energy.
But embracing a vision for the future of this town by having to react on an ad hoc basis to proposals such as this one is not the way forward.

There has got to be a better way.


Totnes Pulse always has a right to reply- comment below or get in touch – info@totnespulse.co.uk

  7 comments for “Puddavine Yard: Clever by half in the wrong location

  1. Graham Howard
    6th October 2018 at 4:45 pm

    What will they rename Nellies Wood ?. the location of Nellies wood is further back on the other side of Queens Marsh. You have two Nellies Wood locations lol. Personally I think the development looks like a temporary office solution rather than a developement.

    • Debbie F
      8th October 2018 at 12:58 pm

      Full road name is Nellies Wood View, named after the wood opposite as you say…

  2. Debbie F
    8th October 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for this interesting summation of the situation that we the residents are facing.

  3. Pete Chicken
    8th October 2018 at 1:17 pm

    A very interesting article.
    Reading a little bit more about Mr Pink and ERC Developments, the entry in LinkedIn reads “As a local business we firmly believe that where we live shapes the way we live. It is our mission as boutique commercial property development company to think outside the box and offer a unique development to fit in with the local environment”. Putting aside the boundless possibility for puns about thinking outside boxes one has to feel sorry for those people who bought homes immediately neighbouring or overlooking the meadow on which this development is planned (nb I also live on the Meadowside development) for although they/we all knew this land was for commercial development, no-one expected to have shipping containers stacked up overlooking their homes. To use marketing line of “believing where we we live shapes the way we live” would maybe suggest that living next to re-appropriated shipping containers is going to somehow enhance and enrich your life? And to “offer a unique development to fit in with the local environment” ? Let’s break that one down – Steel shipping containers stacked on the edge of a brook next door to a red-brick housing development? Certainly unique but certainly does not fit in with the local environment.

  4. Marty
    11th October 2018 at 8:48 am

    I really don’t understand the apparent negativity towards this development. I too live nearby this site and I feel the proposal shows a rare level of creativity and imagination for new developments in the area.

    Visually, the shipping containers might not be to some peoples taste but what is aesthetically displeasing to some is pleasing to others-I and other people I have talked to think they look great and show a vision by the developers in line with the idea of a community space, pop up shops, cafes and small businesses in a town that prides itself on being ‘different’ which could make a strong visual statement to people driving into Totnes that this isn’t just another generic market town.

    Be careful what you wish for-since the building of the Kingdom Hall opened this corridor of land into Totnes to development, the Nellies Wood site has been earmarked for ‘light industrial’ use with rumour has it, Tesco, showing early interest. Not meaning to be negative but resistance is futile! Something will go on this site. Do people want a generic concrete/brick industrial or retail space from perhaps a national chain adding more gentrification to the town or something a little quirkier, owned by locals and aimed at adding to the local community?

    I completely understand new developments are scary and disruptive. When the new Meadowside estate was built it caused month upon month of problems on the A385 and to existing neighbours as will the new sainted, Transition Homes Estate across the road from Meadowside if/when it happens. As mentioned, something will end up being built on the Nellies Wood site but the Puddavine Yard developers are at least trying to gauge opinion and talk to local people. Puddavine Yard may or may not happen-personally I hope it does and genuinely believe once the uncertainty and disruption of a new build is out of the way, it will be of a benefit to everyone living nearby.

    Finally to the author addressing your headline ‘Clever by half and in the wrong location’ what exactly do you want to see on this site? Something will be built on Nellies Wood in the next few years-I’m genuinely intrigued on your and other objectors opinion on what you want to see on the site once building is complete.

  5. John Anderson
    11th October 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to make your feelings known on this matter. I think I made it clear toward of that piece that I wasn’t opposed on aesthetic grounds to the use of shipping containers for other purposes. If the containers were remodelled to a high standard and the grounds around them maintained also at a high standard, this kind of project would be an interesting fit for Totnes. What bothered me were two things: How the developer jumped the gun (and slightly misrepresented the official position of the SHDC planning department.) I also have a problem with the process that springs these planning applications on us. If you think about it like putting the pieces of a mosaic together, the Nellies Wood View project is pretty critical in that it provides a key element in the linkage between the town centre and the outlying residential and commercial pods. Wouldn’t it be more sensible, more democratic if the residents of the immediate area as well as the Town Council had some input into what they wanted to see there, instead of having these planning applications laid at our feet without any consultation?
    John Anderson

  6. Louis Victory
    16th October 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Completely inappropriate application of a building solution which has been developed for emergency economic regeneration after earthquakes or temporary accommodation on sites pending development. High embodied energy containers, with unavoidably poor energy performance. Visually fine for brownfield urban sites; visual disasters for sensitive gateway sites to rural settlements. Bring on high quality modern design, but not trendy hipster urbanism aimed primarily at big profits for sharp developers masquerading as community benefactors.

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