Transformation of former hospital into community hub gets under way
- Credit: Archant
Construction work to convert a town's disused hospital into new housing and a community hub has officially begun.
It marks a significant milestone for SouthGen, the community benefit society set up to prevent the old Southwold and District Hospital from being turned into second homes.
Built and funded by local people almost 120 years ago, the hospital has been the subject of a tireless campaign since its closure in 2015.
The regeneration of the building will breathe new life into the area by offering nine affordable homes and a creative community hub, due for completion in early 2021.
Members of SouthGen met with development partners Hastoe Housing Association and Wellington Construction, as well as Suffolk Coastal MP, Thérèse Coffey, to celebrate the occasion.
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Dr Coffey said: "I was delighted to visit the old Southwold hospital site to see work starting on the new affordable homes and community facilities for local people.
"After all the hard work done by SouthGen and Hastoe working together, it was great to see it finally coming to a new phase of life on the ground."
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As a listed building, great care will be taken during the works to restore as much of the hospital's original features as possible, with plans for the Edwardian façade to be returned to its former glory.
The community hub will include a new home for Southwold Library, a nursery, space for local businesses, and a farm-to-fork cafe.
Four of the new homes will be available to rent and five will available for shared ownership, with all nine prioritised for people with a local connection to Southwold.
Keith Robinson, vice-chairman of East Suffolk Council, said affordable homes were "sorely needed" in the town.
He added: "I'm fully supportive of the community taking control of the hospital and putting it to positive use. The public facilities, such as the café and library, will provide a great meeting place for local people."
Through its community share offer - allowing people to buy shares in the development - SouthGen has raised nearly £500,000 towards the project, including £100,000 in matched equity from the Community Shares Booster Programme.