People in Totnes are to get their chance to vote for a new neighbourhood plan in a referendum.

But it won’t include a specific policy about how the controversial former Dairy Crest site will be developed.

The policy which laid out the community’s aspirations for the land was removed from the plan on a technicality during an independent examination process.

South Hams District Council member for Totnes Cllr John Birch (Lib Dem) is disappointed by this but supports the plan as a whole as it would protect Totnes from speculative development.

All modifications to the plan were accepted by South Hams District councillors at an executive committee meeting this week and it will now go to a public vote later this year.

Local authorities have to take neighbourhood plans into account when making planning decisions. They include wish lists and policies for future development relating to the economy, environment, public realm, housing and employment. The Totnes Neighbourhood Plan, if accepted, will run until 2034.

The town’s former Dairy Crest site has been vacant for 15 years and has been the subject of two failed planning applications for mixed-use development by Essex-based glue company Fastglobe.

The town council revealed new plans of its own which it says are more in keeping with Totnes’ character and the local plan but hasn’t yet submitted them to South Hams District Council.

Both plans include much-needed housing, but Totnes Community Development Society, which is behind the community’s ‘Atmos project’ says it has the backing from local people for its “affordable” homes.

The Atmos project previously won a Community Right to Buy order for Dairy Crest, but this has since lapsed.

Fastglobe’s last application increased the planned number of homes from 25 to 80, but was refused because of a lack of affordable homes, ecological impact and noise surveys, is now the subject of an appeal which will take place in November.

Cllr Birch said: “It is a great pity that the policy regarding the Dairy Crest site has been left out of the plan, as it really replicated the proposal being put forward by the Atmos campaign. There is some protection within the plan for this site but we would have liked this tightened up.”

He added: “It would be really helpful if we could get this neighbourhood plan in place by 5 December when the appeal takes place. What is really important is that with a neighbourhood plan we will now be able to protect Totnes from overdevelopment, unsightly development and speculative development.”

Deputy leader of the council Cllr Dan Thomas (Lib Dem, Newton and Yealmpton) congratulated the NP team for putting together a plan which was  “a tricky thing to do for a town like Totnes.”