DBDUC has asked for this on several occasions. It has been, alongside withdrawing of all the sites from the ‘Our Plan’ process, the second key demand of DBDUC’s campaign from its outset. While DHT has, at least, discussed the site withdrawal issue with us, they have steadfastly ignored this second element of our campaign.
It appears to us that the process by which DHT chooses which land to put forward for development, puts pressure on SHDC to accept its proposals, employs dubious consultants to enable that process, chooses which developers it works with, and “consults” the local community, are all deeply troubling, and greatly out of step with the Trust’s own stated values. Let’s just remind ourselves what those values are:
To create a society that is sustainable, just and enriching
To use our estate and resources to stimulate new thinking and action to help deliver this vision
To play our part in building more resilient and creative communities
Why do we do it?
Through our work and partnerships, we aim to:
- Use our people, land and buildings to drive positive social change
- Foster an environment where people of all ages and backgrounds can engage with our work
- Increase the well-being (social, environmental and economic) of our communities
(there are 3 others, but they are not as relevant to this discussion)
DHT has a stated commitment to disposing of all off-estate land within 5 years. Their 2012-2013 accounts state:
“Land and buildings located outside the Dartington estate are now held for their investment potential and as such have been included in the financial statements and investments and at market value”.
Yet, as exemplified by Sawmill Fields, the great values set out above are forgotten when it comes to how that land is sold, to whom, and what development will then take place on it. Filling the Trust’s coffers appears to be the only consideration.
So we are calling for DHT to produce a clear statement as to what its off-estate land disposal process would look like if it were underpinned by its values. While we don’t have any plans to actually write the whole thing for them, here are some beginning thoughts for what it might contain:
Sustainability: DHT already does some wonderful work in this regard, or rather it has created the space for others to do so. But in relation to its off estate land, the core question is how what is built actually serves the needs of the low carbon future we so urgently need to create? DHT could look to the Transition Homes proposal as an example of a project thinking through the sustainability of the development in every aspect.
The housing we built today will “lock in” the carbon emissions during the next 20 years, the window when we urgently need to massively reduce our emissions. Anything other than zero carbon in construction and operation is not good enough. Land should only be sold to organisations with a good track record in this regard, and with a commitment to model sustainability in all aspects of the site’s development.
Social justice: Any developments on land made available by DHT must serve the needs of the wide community of Totnes. The town needs affordable homes, not top-end homes that are unaffordable given the average wages in Totnes. Rather than using private developers, why not encourage the use of a social enterprise co-operative that could build homes in such a way as to create the maximum training opportunities for young people, the maximum reskilling opportunities? Not that the Trust will get any kind of advice in this kind of direction from consultants such as WYG.
“Building more resilient and creative communities”: Unlike DHT, we regard the Carnegie Foundation’s definition of a resilient community as one “where people build effective communities on the basis of agreed values and action” as being vague to the point of being meaningless. For us, it refers to enabling communities to be as best prepared as possible for times of uncertainty and instability, but seeing that as an opportunity to reimagine how their economic and social systems function, how they feed and power themselves, and how their economic focus shifts to a more localised model of economy.
This is the take on resilience on which the very successful Transition Town movement, founded in Totnes, has been based. Dartington could play an active role in this, rather than falling back on meaningless definitions like that set out by the Carnegie Foundation. The Transition definition would enable the Trust to play a central role in a nationally important reimaging of the local economy, a nationally pioneering and relevant experiment.
Our suggestion would be the first place to start in creating this new strategy for the Trust would be to invite the community to an Open Space event framed around the question “what would DHT’s land disposal look like if it were framed around its values?” The collective intelligence of local people would help shape this in a very useful way. Creating this statement would be hugely beneficial for everyone. It would finally embody their commitment to “use our estate and resources to stimulate new thinking and action to help deliver this vision”, rather than it just being words on a website. The alternative is more woeful development such as that at Sawmill Field. C’mon DHT, it’s time to #liveyourvalues.