The new owners of the former Dairy Crest site claim the multi-million pound development envisaged for the site by Atmos “is not, and never was, viable and deliverable.”
The assertion was made in response to Totnes Town Council’s bid to include the aims of the Atmos project into the Totnes Neighbourhood Plan.
Consultants PCL Planning, on behalf of the site’s owners Fastglobe, says this will result in the site remaining “derelict and undeveloped.”
Councillors have agreed to extend the pause in the examination of the draft neighbourhood plan for a further three months to give both South Hams Council and itself the chance to respond to Fastglobe’s queries.
South Hams Council is seeking legal advice from its in-house solicitors.
The town council will also benefit from the advice, providing it meets its own criteria and is received by the end of March.
If not, councillors have given the town clerk, Catherine Marlton, delegated powers to spend £4,000 on seeking the council’s own legal advice.
Speaking at the recent full council meeting, Cllr Jacqi Hodgson said: “A further three month pause is not putting the plan at any risk, it’s just a slight delay.
“The new owners have challenged us and we need to make sure we are absolutely right.
“It’s better to get the neighbourhood plan we want and that’s really positive for the town, rather than steam rollering ahead with a particularly important site not properly covered by what the community has said through a Community Right to Build Order they would like to see there.
“It was one of the first in the country and it would be an awful shame to lose the desires and aspirations the town had for that site.
“It would be fantastic to see it happen, and this is the way to try and enshrine that into our neighbourhood plan. It’s probably the most important thing in the neighbourhood plan.”
The clerk sounded a word of caution, saying legal advice would cost some £4,000.
“The price is considerably more than I was expecting,” she said.
“It would completely wipe out the neighbourhood plan budget for the year.
“I think it would be better to wait for South Hams Council to come back first.”
Cllr Victoria Trow feared the process could be delayed even further if the council were to wait for advice that may turn out not to address the town’s needs.
Cllr Trow said she would be happier setting a time limit before splashing out on the town council’s own advice.
“I know it’s more money but we have to get the neighbourhood plan in place.”
In a letter to the town clerk, PCL Planning said Fastglobe wants to develop the site and that Totnes land agent, Patrick Gillies, is leading the project.
The council’s proposed changes to the plan would “only serve to thwart” the development, designed to “enhance and support the vitality and viability of Totnes,” said PCL.
PCL wrote: “Since the closure of the former Dairy Crest operation in 2007 that site has lain derelict.
“Currently it is a ‘magnet’ for anti-social behaviour and there has been the tragic loss of human life on the site during this period of urban decay.
“This does not need to be – and should not be – the future for the site.
“The site is available, and deliverable, for mixed use regeneration as per the longstanding objective of both this, and previous, development plans in the form proposed by our client, namely Brunel Park.
“Our client wishes to bring this sorry period of the site’s history to an end and they are currently taking what steps they can to reduce the negative impact of this decay upon neighbours to the site and the town generally.
“However, further progress in resolving the current anti-social behaviour problems that occur cannot be made until our clients are able to proceed with their proposals to redevelop the site.”