Can the leopard change its spots?

leopardWe, the residents of DBDUC, have a simple request of DHT and that is to ‘live their values’. We think the intention of selling 40 acres of green field sites to build 400 houses is utterly incongruent with principles of social justice and sustainability – purportedly key values of DHT.

The trust claim to be expert in ‘building resilient and creative communities’ – we are not sure quite what this means but would have thought that the community on the door step of the trust would be the best place to model best practice.

In recent weeks we have witnessed events, that by anyone’s standard that would not be considered congruent with contributing to community resilience. A lot of hot air about community conversations, community consultation, a commitment to the neighbourhood planning process….none of which has made a blind bit of difference to the Trust’s grand plan to ensure that the 40 acres are included in the South Hams District Council development plan.

Vaughan Lindsay., Chief Exec of DHT has admitted that the trust has not handled the process well. In his blog of 31st October he says “we are the first to accept that we have made some mistakes’. He is keen to stress that DHT is now making real attempts to listen and work better with the community.

We are being asked to believe that the leopard can really change its spots.

How then should we interpret the actions of DHT who only this week saw fit to try to silence a local resident daring to ask them to practice what they preach. Selena Mara lives in Huxhams Cross and with her daughter had made a banner saying ‘Dartington Trust: walk your talk’. Not rude, not offensive simply a request to model the principles of social justice and sustainability that DHT proclaims to uphold. The banner was displayed on her hedge visible to passing traffic. Within an hour of putting it up, the banner had been removed. Two hours later it was returned by a member of staff of Dartington Hall Trust!  For more details and the apology issued by DHT see the Totnes Times (p7, 5th November 2014).

At one level this could be viewed as a storm in a tea cup but it reflects the giant chasm that exists between the trusts stated values and its actual behaviour.

Fortunately, Dartington is a resilient community as the work of DBDUC will show over the coming months.  Hopefully, Selena will use her right to freedom of speech and re-hang her banner and along with a growing number of residents demand the DHT to walk the talk and live their values.

Louise Morpeth, Dartington resident.

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