Proposed St Mary’s Partnership

Proposal that Totnes Town Council join a partnership aiming to realise the potential of the magnificent St Mary’s Church and the historic spaces around it.

In pursuing its charitable objectives of improving historic buildings and public spaces in the town, Totnes Trust has been considering the next phase of projects it might undertake. The most creative idea has been to build on the unique heritage around St Mary’s Church, which is potentially an historic precinct of international quality and interest.

The broad intention would be to enhance the grand space in front of St Mary’s, lined on one side with Elizabethan merchants’ houses, and on the other side by the church forecourt and building.

From this space a more open and inviting access could be created to the churchyard and the ramparts. Subject to historic and religious status, the churchyard area could be enhanced to operate as beautiful green amenity space, which the town centre so badly needs. This concept has already been supported in the Neighbourhood Planning process.

Last but not least, a new route could be formed through the churchyard to improve access to the Guildhall, partially alleviating its current isolation from the High Street, supporting its democratic ‘visibility’ to citizens, and making it a more integrated part of this extraordinary ‘Church & State’ complex for visitors.

By coincidence, the Parochial Church Council has at the same time been initiating a major project to restore the ‘At Risk’ exterior of St Mary’s, and reorder it’s internal facilities to make them more accessible and usable for community purposes. The Trust and the PCC have therefore seen merit in coming together to make a powerful case for all aspects of both projects, and to jointly consult the public on their proposals.

In recent initial discussions the two organisations have recognised the importance of the widest possible consultation, and in particular the importance of creating a partnership with the Town Council, which of course has responsibility for the maintenance of the churchyard area. Partly this is because similar partnerships with South Hams District Council (as site owners e.g. for Shady Garden) have proved very productive; partly because of the implications for the Guildhall; and partly because of the Council’s strong interests in heritage and tourism in the town.

PROPOSAL: That Totnes Town Council approves joining with the Totnes Trust and Totnes with Bridgetown Parochial Church Council in a ‘St Mary’s Partnership’ dedicated to restoring and reordering the Church; enhancing the surrounding historic spaces; creating better green amenity space in the churchyard; and making an inviting new route to the Guildhall.

March 2017: The above proposal was made and carried at a recent Town Council meeting.