Vision to transform former hospital into community building with library, crèche and café moves closer

People behind the Save Our Southwold (Hospital) campaign. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

People behind the Save Our Southwold (Hospital) campaign. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

An 18-month community-led project to revitalise an iconic heritage asset could move a step closer to becoming reality this week.

Campaigners will discover on Tuesday night whether plans to turn a redundant hospital site into a community hub will be given the go-ahead.

Waveney District Council's planning committee will discuss an application from Hastoe Housing Association, on behalf of SouthGen – Southwold and Waveney Valley Regeneration Society Ltd – for 'a community led mixed use redevelopment of the former Southwold and District Hospital site'.

SouthGen – a community benefit society – is proposing to create a community hub, on the former hospital site in Field Stile Road, which closed in November 2015.

The scheme could provide a new site for Southwold Library, a crèche, café, a small business centre and nine residential homes – consisting of five affordable and four market houses – on the former hospital site.

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A planning report to be discussed by councillors at Tuesday's meeting at Riverside, Lowestoft says the application 'includes the conversion and restoration of the original hospital building, which is locally listed and situated within the Southwold conservation area'.

'The application is the culmination of an 18-month community led project to find a new community use of this building that will benefit the town.'

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Speaking ahead of the meeting, Laurence Vulliamy, chairman of SouthGen and also Save Our Southwold – the campaigning and fundraising arm of SouthGen – said: 'The old hospital was opened in 1903 by the community, for the community, until its closure in 2015.

'This development is effectively putting it back in the hands of the community.'

With 28 letters of support for the proposals and three letters of objection from residents that adjoin the site on the grounds of loss of light, planning officials have recommended that councillors vote in favour of the scheme.

The report concludes: 'This application to re-develop the former hospital site has shown that the mixed use scheme proposed helps to secure the retention of a community use of the site, which is of considerable benefit to Southwold.'

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