Following a historic vote in Dartington village during December, the results are in. 387 residents have signed statements to say that they have ’no confidence that Dartington Hall Trust are acting in the best interests of our village in proposing 14 green field sites for development of at least 500 houses’’.
The vote, the first of its kind in Britain was organised by campaign Group Don’t Bury Dartington Under Concrete (DBDUC), which began in September. It now has a mandate of 387 Dartington residents and many more further afield, to ask questions and put pressure on Dartington Hall Trust to rethink proposals that locals feel would severely threaten their village, countryside and way of life.
Since September locals have been asking DHT Trustees to withdraw proposals to offer 52 acres of green field sites for development in the district councils ‘Our Plan’, which shapes development in the district for the next 10 years. Despite collecting over 1000 objection cards, setting up a 38 Degrees online petition which already has 875 signatures, establishing their own informative web site and trying to get DHT Trustees to engage with local people, the sites have been left in (albeit reduced to 14 when those least likely to be granted planning were removed).
DBDUC spokesperson Trudy Turrell said:
‘Organising the vote has been a tremendous effort, and we’d like to thank all the local volunteers who gave so many hours of their time to call at around 800 houses in and around a mile of the village and collect statements from all locals over 16. The response shows a far higher response than for General Elections!’
During the voting, DHT trustees finally offered to meet with DBDUC representatives, so that they could explain the threats to the village, objections from local people and talk face to face. DBDUC were delighted to have that opportunity, and feel that several trustees were sympathetic; most were not aware of the strength of feeling locally, nor of the potential effects on the village if all the land were to be sold for development.
In a letter received from Chair of the Trustees Sir David Green on 22nd December, trustees reaffirmed their decision not to withdraw the sites from the district council’s plan and work with locals on Dartington’s Neighbourhood Plan first, so that any development was agreed and accepted by the community first.
In their response to Sir David, DBDUC stated:
‘Leaving the sites in means our campaign will grow, deepen and evolve, and will inflict real reputational damage and negative publicity on the Trust. This is more than just “an important symbol of commitment” for us, it is a defining issue.’
Later this month trustees will hold a workshop to consider the issues raised in greater detail. Campaigners hope that after the Christmas break, they will have had time to reflect and consider withdrawing the sites. DBDUC members have again been invited to present to the trustees.
When DHT submitted the original 19 sites, in the paperwork accompanying each application, it wrote:
“DHT is willing to make land within our ownership available for sustainable development both on and off estate, where the form of development meets our charitable objectives of creating a Resilient Community, addresses local need and is done in consultation and with the majority support, of the community”.
“It is clear”, concludes Trudy Turrell, “that DHT do not have that support. Perhaps each time DHT intends to submit a planning application on its land, it should do exactly what we have just done, and go door-to-door in the village. Given that only 13 people specifically told us they did have confidence in the Trust’s actions, they would need to give some serious though to what they were proposing”.
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