TV presenter's show of support for old dairy site campaign
A CAMPAIGN to turn a derelict industrial site into a community owned and managed eco-housing and business site has gathered more high-profile support.
Atmos Totnes has announced it has received the support of Kevin McCloud, of TV's Grand Design fame, and Tim Smit, the man behind Cornwall's Eden Project.
The two men join broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby and Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston as patrons of the campaign.
The community initiative is working to bring the former Dairy Crest site next to Totnes train station into community ownership.
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Atmos has, in recent months, succeeded in mobilising hundreds of local people in a high profile push which led to a meeting with Dairy Crest representatives in late May described by both parties as 'very constructive'.
A spokesman for the campaign said the group have been invited by Dairy Crest to submit a written proposal for the site.
Called Atmos Totnes: the heart of a new economy, the campaign wants the former industrial site to become a national 'icon' for low-carbon building and put Totnes on the map as a centre of innovation and sustainability.
Transition Town Totnes, the first organisation of its kind in the world, is behind the six-month campaign to put the former Dairy Crest site back to use.
Atmos is pushing for site owners Dairy Crest to gift the land to the community so new life can be injected into it.
Tim Smit, who turned Eden from an idea into a £144million project, said: "One of the great things we need to know about the UK is it was once the manufacturing capital of the world, we were the masters of invention, and at the heart of the Atmos Project is a paean to the work of probably the greatest engineer who's ever lived in Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
"How appropriate than in a transition town, we see a place that is about making, about imagination, about creativity.
"Our future depends on getting our young and our old to get curious again, to make wonderful things, which actually make the future something which is worth."
A spokesman for Atmos said: "We have submitted a request to Dairy Crest for an exclusivity agreement and an option that would see the site withdrawn from sale so that Atmos could work up a detailed proposal for the site, which would see it developed as 'the heart of a new economy' for Totnes, with business incubation, food processing, public space and as a demonstration of the Transition approach.
"We are currently awaiting their response."
Kevin McCloud, whose TV series have done a huge amount to promote the concept of green building, said he was pleased to be associated with the project.
He said: "For years and years, development has been top-down, and it's been a job where people have bought and sold and traded it and upped its value through the planning process, only to build rather crappy homes and buildings on it in the end.
"I'm much more interested in the Gandhian approach, the bottom-up democratic where people as communities work together to empower themselves to take control.
"There's nothing more exciting than seeing people taking control for where they live.
"I think Atmos is important because Totnes was one of those early transition towns, so to see it flowering, to see it moving onto the next level, the next stage of community empowerment and ownership, is really exciting, but I think it also speaks volumes for where the whole nation, indeed where as a society we could go."
A spokesman for Dairy Crest confirmed its top executives had met with Atmos campaigners and said they had asked them to put forward a detailed proposal for the site.
She added: "We're waiting for their response and then we will take it to the next stage."
For the latest on the campaign, log on to www.atmostotnes.org