Two sides to every story: Dartington Trust

Sawmills Designs commissioned by Dartington in 2016 (copyright LHC design)

20th February 2020

The Dartington Trust are currently receiving a large amount of criticism over plans to sell off 8.7 hectares of land, Broom Park & Sawmills Fields, for development. These areas are mainly fields in the vicinity of Week Village hall. Vocal objectors have raised several concerns relating to wildlife, over-development of green field sites, potential pollution issues, an increase in local traffic and urbanisation of a small village location, with a petition on Change.org.

…w​e have been able to reduce our deficit by £1m

Unsurprisingly, with a much loved location around which many people have been drawn to live and work, passions are running high. Following an article recently published in the Totnes Pulse, we wanted to reach out to the Trust for their point of view on this controversial situation.

Chair of the Dartington trustees, Greg Parston denied the accusation that the Trustees were too low-key in communicating with local people and provided an open letter sent out last November from himself and Managing Director, Alan Boulden which you can read here. He also strongly defended the land sell-off pointing out that the development has already been agreed under the Joint Local Plan, that the environmental impacts had been assesed and would be accounted for and that houses would be shielded from the main road by an orchard.  He has provided us with this statement in his own words:

Neither Dartington nor the town of Totnes would be what they are today without the spirit of social change and revolution. However, the current campaigning against the activities undertaken by the Trust are proving to be misleading and unhelpful.  These campaigns are sending the message that the entirety of the trust is under threat, creating fear and anxiety for our community and for all of those working so hard to protect Dartington.

The concerned groups were invited into a dialogue with the Trustees, but after two meetings, they decided to go straight to press without notification to us. Yet now they are accusing us of not listening to them or not responding to their campaign – a campaign that, far from drawing our community together to save Dartington, is divisive and misleading, creating a culture of anxiety which is not collaborative. Indeed, some of the charges levelled at the Trust have been threatening and are potentially libellous, and we have registered those with the Charity Commission.

Greg Parston (image copyright Dartington.org)

On a positive note, the Trust has taken a number of effective steps to improve our financial situation. Over the last four months, w​e have been able to reduce our deficit by £1m, a significant step to securing the future of Dartington Hall Trust and part of a visionary plan of new courses and events to increase income, alongside some practical sale of assets, including a small amount of land.

As I am sure you are aware, there is a shortage of housing, nationally and locally. It is estimated that around 120,000 houses are needed every year across the UK. So many communities are being asked to help address this shortfall and Dartington and South Devon more widely are no different. As a landowner, we are obliged to comply strictly with the South Hams local plan, according to which Broom Park will accommodate only 80 homes – not 400 as some have charged – and, as part of this, we are doing all that we can to reduce the carbon footprint on housing construction and life-cycle and, working with others, to provide positive solutions towards traffic management.

In that regard, in the Spring, we will be bringing together some leaders from academia, environmental sustainability organisations and industry to begin looking at what a transport/mobilities futures solution could be, perhaps centrally located near The Shops. At the moment we imagine there may be a number of nodes that could see multiple charging stations (for bikes, cars and buses), complimented by better walking and biking routes and active traffic calming measures. 

The Trust’s wonderful staff, members and local supporters are all working hard to ensure Dartington thrives for another century. We receive many letters and expressions of support every day from local people who denounce​ the mistruths, exaggerations and – frankly – self interests of some protestors and who encourage us to do all we can to ensure the Trust’s longevity and continued service to the community. “

 

Do you have a view? Comment below…

 

 

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