Atmos Project


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Project Overview

The name ‘Atmos’ was chosen early on in the project to reflect the history of the site as one of the stations that was part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s experimental but ultimately unsuccessful ‘atmospheric railway’ which was piloted on the stretch of railway line between Totnes and Exeter.  It is also a name that reflects the project’s desire model a form of development which is a pro-active response to climate change.

The vision

The Brunel Building

The Brunel Building is a Grade 2 listed building which has recently been re-roofed by Dairy Crest after they took the roof off the building in 2008. It is our proposal that this building, which has a negative value in terms of the amount of work that needs doing to it, be gifted to the community of Totnes, along with the piece of ground beside it.  At the moment, it looks like the picture you see above.  But perhaps, when the Atmos Project goes ahead, it could look something like these images created by Totnes-based architects LED, which show the building in use as a restaurant/venue space:


In order to showcase local food and to develop the site as a destination in its own right an 80 cover restaurant could be established on the site, within the Brunel Building. Through the restaurant/cafe they will showcase what is best about this region’s food and link into the local food producers using the facilities that could be created in an adjoining new building, the School for Food Entrepreneurs, and taking beer from a micro brewery in the smaller half of the Brunel building.

Micro brewery

The micro brewery could be established in the smaller half of the Brunel building as a separate legal entity and developed as a community owned brewery. It would be a joint venture community enterprise between Totnes Development Trust and Transition Town Totnes. All surpluses generated would be returned into the local food hub development.

Whilst the micro brewery will be the subject of a full business plan the intention is that it will generate a rental income of £3,000 per annum. In addition it is anticipated that sales of beer in the bar (restaurant, associated bistro and micro brewery bar) will ensure that operating costs are covered and a surplus generated that will be returned to Totnes Development Trust for the running of the local food hub.

Venu space

The venue space would be left as flexible as possible. It should be able to accommodate:

a. Wholesale food markets:

  • It is proposed that there will be a monthly food market. This will showcase the food produced by those using the facilities at the School for Food Entrepreneurs.
  • For the markets it is proposed that the market stalls are given free space but that stallholders gift 15% of their takings to support the running of the venue.

b. Community functions:

  • Transition events and consultation events will be held at the venue. These will be charged a nominal fee of £50 per day. This charge is comparable with the Civic Hall (a space managed by Totnes Town Council).
  • It is noted that the Civic Hall does not have a bar or a music licence but is often used for local theatre productions (having a stage and lighting). The intention is not to compete with the Civic Hall but to complement it and provide a space much needed in the town for exhibitions, conferences, evening functions and covered markets.

c. Exhibition space:

  • Totnes has a rich arts and cultural scene. The venue space will be offer for exhibition of art (both local and travelling exhibitions). These will be charged at the nominal day rate of £50 per day.

d. Day conferences:

There are no conference facilities within Totnes. Given the development of the Transition Town movement and the connection with the railway (links to Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham and London etc) mean that it should be possible to generate the day conference trade.

e. Evening functions space:

Totnes has no large music and dance venue.

f. Private parties:

Private parties including wedding receptions

g. Other markets:

Antiques, travelling continental markets etc.

Future Objectives

Community ideas

We want what happens at the former Dairy Crest site to be as representative of what the community of Totnes wants to happen there as possible. Please give us your ideas as to what you’d like to see happen there. There will be much bigger community consultations, but we’d really welcome your thoughts. Here’s what people have sent us in so far.

“The whole site except for the atmos building must be a Park & Ride scheme with the buses stopping that side of the station instead of the other. The present scheme means humdreds more cars in Totnes not fewer and we simply can’t cope with that”.
Mrs Jane Kipling

“Include a Community Kitchen. A flexible kitchen/eating space for use by the community. Uses might include: pop-up cafe events; private bookings for groups/parties; use by local food businesses for their food preparation and/or cooking; pick-up point for veg box schemes (convenient for Totnesians who commute elsewhere for work)”.
Tony Homfray

“Refurnish could have an outlet there. Various other repair and refurbishment micro workshop enterprises could then have shared shop space in which to sell their items and possibly share equipment/workshop facilities. Recover more value from waste – a reuse supercentre where all kinds of materials are available for reclamation, repair and reuse around the home and garden”.
Richard Gomme

Something which incorporates elements of community-level social care, which is increasingly needed. We need plans which create a living environment in which the community can thrive and also support the most vulnerable. It could maybe include something like a Camphill type of community, creating positive life opportunities for people who need support. Or just that the community creates its own type of “sheltered” accomodation where people look out for each other and can access support when needed.
Sarah Robens

I come from a river-based town, Cambridge and it thrives on a strong link with the river. With so much of the Totnes waterfront already private or residential development, it would be good to use this opportunity to unite the water edge with Totnes in a more creative way. Other than that, I think what is already planned is great! Lots of greenery and [courtyard?] gardens please!
Catherine Munro

Brilliant social initiative emerging from the community of Totnes. Really admirable and inspiring! Although I think the visions for the site so far seem too formalist and simplistic… like so many “model” examples of “sustainable” buildings and “eco”districts all over europe they seem to lack sensibility and humanity. Architecture should grow from place and people, as a social process, instead of adopting a “model”, as a product. And that is the greatest potencial of this unique initiative. Maybe you should consider an international contest of ideas for a broader view and out-of-the-box visions on what could be the transition for an ecologically and evolutionary built environment. Best luck for Atmos Totnes!

A community oriented Recycle Exchange.
One person’s rubbish is another’s “just what I need”. The people of Totnes seem blissfully unaware that in two weeks (30 April) a veritable local institution, the recycling depot in Babbage Road, will cease to be run by the friendly locals who seem to appreciate what recycling is all about, by not charging silly money (unlike others, at Newton Abbot and Exeter, for instance. Devon CC has awarded a new contract to French company SITA. So much for the county supporting local enterprise. And so much for all the many Totnes folk who daily can be found browsing the tables for a bargain, a hose pipe, a trunk, some picture frames perhaps, or some pretty ceramic. SITA has said it plans to close the resale section. End of an era, indeed. Thank you Devon County Council.
David Thurston

A healthy balance of independence and community created through sharing things like a laundry, tool shed, growing food, car pool, a communal kitchen/social area balanced with the privacy of ones own eco build front door, small private outside space (roof terrace/verandah) and mutual respect for this. A vibrant local and independent economy from ground floor units used for local businesses, creatives and other enterprising and entrepreneurial people who can thrive via our support. An exhibition space where other towns and villages can visit an be inspired by what we have achieved and where we can learn from other projects. Excellent public transport links and a strong and thriving connection to the main Totnes town.
Karin Jordan

“I would like to see ‘phase-change’ materials used in the buildings (self cleaning walls, walls with candle wax inside that melts and hardens depending on temperature to help keep in heat and cool the buildings etc.) and how about working with Paignton soon to set up a multistorey salad and ved growing sytem. This should be at the vanguard of cutting edge ecological design. I love waht you are doing”.
Gareth Wolf

“While I understand the financial need for mixed development please don’t miss the chance to also create something truly innovative, exciting and economically stimulating on the Dairy Crest site. I urge you to look at Eureka, the wonderful National Children’s Museum in Halifax. It’s beside the train station in an historic industrial building (sound familiar) and is now a honeypot for families across the NW. Why not a sustainability themed Children’s Museum SW in Totnes, with rail links to Eden Project, Dartington, TTT, Exeter Uni’s enviornmental work? It could be awesome. It’d provide year-round employment, a top quality educational attraction, real year-round economic benefits to the rest of town and make genuine use of its proximity to the railway. Housing and office space has its place but, please, Totnes could gain so much more from this site”.
Claire Crawley

“The Brunel building could become an Isambard Kingdom Brunel Museum. Maybe another thing the Town Council could add to their list of interesting things associated with Totnes. Link that to the Dart Valley Railway you have tourists.I mean the greatest engineer who ever lived linked with Totnes.Shout about it. Don’t stick a posh cafe in there it would be a waste. As for Conference Centre. Torquay has one and Dartington has one. Conference Centres are two a penny”.
Gra Howard

 ATMOS Update 2014.