Pressure mounts on college to sell land to town council not developer

By Ginny Ware   |   Totnes Reporter   |
Sunday 29th May 2022 6:00 am
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Alice Widger (. )

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Pressure is mounting on Totnes secondary school to sell some of it’s surplus land to the town council rather than to a housing developer.

Hundreds of residents have backed the council’s bid by signing a petition urging King Edward VI Community College to sell the Lower School site to the authority.

And townsfolk are planning to join a “Save Totnes Green Space Picnic” at the site in another show of support for the council.

The town council has made an offer of £2.5million for the Lower Field, which includes playing fields and the historic Elmhirst building.

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KEVICC's Lower School site (. )

It says it will protect and enhance the green space for the community.

But the school has proposed selling it to a developer, as the Joint Local Plan says up to 130 homes can be built on the site.

The college aims to raise a total of £7 million through selling seven parcels of land – a total of 14 acres - which also include areas of the Redworth site, to help fund much needed improvements to its existing facilities.

The land is being sold by asset management company, the Torbay Development Agency, which has advertised it as a “prime development opportunity.”

The Lower School site is located on the Ashburton Road which is one of the most polluted in Devon and marked as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

Fears have been raised that any housing development there would increase pollution and adversely affect householders and students at KEVICCs on the other side of the road.

Totnes mum, Alice Widger has launched a petition urging KEVICCs to sell the Lower Field site to the town council rather than a developer.

It has been signed by more than 950 people in just five days.

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Alice described the Lower Field as an “important part of the fabric” of Totnes and its proposed sale for development is a “great concern” to all who value the town’s green spaces.

It is “vital” KEVICC accepts the council’s offer so the community can can continue to enjoy the space, she said.

Alice added: “In this scenario the school still gets the money it needs, the 130 houses earmarked for the KEVICC site can still be built on the other parcels of land for sale, and the town not only gets to retain an historic and essential asset but also gets to improve it and ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy it.”

The petition is at www.change.org/p/save-kevicc-lower-field

Another Totnes mum, Lisa Smallridge, is inviting townsfolk to join her in a picnic at the Lower Field at 12noon on Saturday June 4 to express their support for the town council’s offer to buy the land.

Totnes Deputy Mayor, Cllr Georgina Allen said: “We are going to make sure that green space is kept green and improve it with sporting facilities, and hopefully a town park, as well as turning the beautiful Elmhirst building into a community hub for the wellbeing and enjoyment of the town as a whole.

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Totnes Deputy Mayor, Cllr Georgina Allen (. )

“Building anything along the AQMA road is extremely problematic and will only add to the serious pollution outside the school and along that road.

“The fact the town council’s offer means that the school can still sell its other parcels of land with 130 dwellings planning permission means they can, in actual fact, raise even more money by selling to the town council than they would if they sold to a developer, and we hope our offer is looked at in this spirit by the governors of the school.”

Totnes district councillor, John Birch, says the sales particulars “give rise to lots of concerns.”

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Cllr John Birch (. )

“The particulars state that one of the key features is that the sale property has "potential for residential development and/or commercial/mixed use,” he said.

“Such a statement seems to be encouraging a type of development that goes beyond that set out in the adopted local plan.

“The adopted plan makes no reference to any commercial development.

“From previous plans produced by KEVICCs this latest move seems to suggest that it is encouraging potential developers to go far beyond the local plan allocation of 130 homes.”

The school declined to comment on the council’s offer.

It has released the feedback from its consultation, which received 99 responses.

A total of 77 per cent of the respondents supported the proposal to “consolidate the college operations on to one site,” and recognised the need for investment.

But the majority of respondents were concerned about any increased development in the area, the loss of green space and its impact on traffic and parking, the report said.

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