An Open letter to the Governors @ Kevicc

Dear KEVICC Governers,

I am writing to you all about the proposed sale of the Elmhirst field to private developers as part of your wider land sale and my concerns as a future parent (until 2037), alumni, and Totnes resident about the development of the field.

I would like to start by making it very clear that I fully endorse the wider plan to raise funds for the school through the sale of the land and the difficulties inherent in funding school development projects. KEVICC was in need of capital investment when I was a student 25-30 years ago, and as the only secondary school in Totnes I believe it is vital that our children have a safe, viable, and modern school to deliver the best educational outcomes for them.

My concern is that the sale of the Elmhirst field will result in the loss of one of Totnes’ incredibly valuable public green spaces, which ultimately is detrimental not just to the students of KEVICC but also to the fabric of the whole town.

Whilst we in Totnes are surrounded by green spaces, the majority of them are privately owned and it is a very real prospect that over the next decade we see much of that lost to development. I suspect that I do not have to stress the importance of its rural character to the fabric of Totnes’ identity, and for a green field site such as the Elmhirst site to be lost when a viable and profitable option to retain the site for the community is on the table would be of great detriment to the town and also the goodwill shown towards KEVICC.

With the future development of the Dartington Lane and Puddavine sites, we are already about to see the character of Ashburton Road change dramatically. The loss of all of this land will be felt acutely, but none more so than land that is currently open to the public being taken away from them.

Totnes has rising air pollution and in some places already is above safe levels. Ashburton Road is one of those ‘hot spots’ and the development of that site would without doubt exacerbate the problem further. As a school, this should be of great concern to you, surely the health of your students is of the utmost priority? Whilst any development will contribute to this, any efforts to mitigate the impact should be of paramount importance and a compelling reason to keep the Elmhirst field as a green space for all.

There is also the question of trust to consider: if KEVICC were to sell the field to a developer under certain conditions (as has been suggested) and then those conditions were reneged upon, the reputational damage to the school would be huge. We are already seeing dishonesty in the adverts for the site sale – for example, erroneously stating that the land is a viable site for commercial development when that categorically contradicts the Joint Local Plan. This hardly fills me with confidence about the nature of the sale and any private developer’s plans for the site.

To my mind, the offer put forward by Totnes Town Council is sound, financially prudent, and in the spirit of Dorothy Elmhirst’s original bequest and in the best interests of the town. By safeguarding the field for future generations KEVICC would go a long way in demonstrating its commitment to the town and its residents. Totnes prides itself on being a place where people look out for each other and has a strong sense of community, it would be nice if the school lived by those shared values and worked with the Town Council in not just retaining, but improving the Elmhirst field as a community asset.

To conclude, I urge you to remove the Elmhirst site from the open market and accept Totnes Town Council’s offer as a matter of urgency.

Yours Sincerely,

Alice Widger

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