The Blue Bell Community Hub in Cocking, near Midhurst, West Sussex is on the verge of reality as local support has enabled the village to buy its threatened pub. Now they are seeking the final funds for refurbishment and a tenant to share in the vision.
Completion on the purchase took place on 30th April 2019 as ambitious plans to transform the Blue Bell into a thriving Community Hub bear fruit. A Community Share Offer remains open for anyone to invest, and people can also support via donations on the project's crowdfunding site. Three quarters of the targeted
£637,000 has been raised, with another £150,000 to be found.
The village is now preparing to refurbish the building, and is holding a series of fundraising projects – a quiz night raised money in March, on the 22nd May an Open Garden and Charity Fair will be held at Crypt Farm and an Open Gardens Event will be held on 16th June.
Villagers and supporters from further afield rallied round to help provide the funds for the new hive of community and voluntary activity at the centre of Cocking as well as a visitor gateway for the South Downs National Park.
In addition to pledges, grants and generous support from local and national trusts and donors, a Community Share Offer has seen over 80 households so far invest in the venture which will not only save the pub, but provide a shop, café, meeting place and the post office when the local post master retires.
Peter Gibbon, one of thevillagers spearheading the fundraising campaign, said: "The Hub will be a hive of community and voluntary activity, a relaxed, accessible venue where people of all ages can enjoy the pub, restaurant and café. It will enhance community life, preventing social isolation and bringing young and old together. The Hub will also create employment and volunteering opportunities, and we plan to partner with local charities to offer garden maintenance, bicycle repairs and the chance to work in the café.
"By working with the South Downs National Park, we have been determined not to lose the key assets of our community and to welcome all those visiting the South Downs and key destinations in the area, such as the Weald & Downland Living Museum, West Dean College and Goodwood."
Peter added: "We are now seeking a suitable tenant to run the venue, to live on site and share in the vision for the pub to become a true social hub, providing facilities and services that bring the community together and serve its visitors."
The South Downs National Park is supporting the project in principle and subject to planning permission, with a visitor gateway in the Hub, providing a place where ramblers, cyclists and all those visiting this beautiful area can discover more about the Park with its historic sites, walks, trails and wildlife.
Andrew Lee, Director of Countryside Policy for the South Downs National Park, said: "The SDNPA is keen to foster the social and economic well-being of the local communities in the National Park and to enable them to understand and enjoy this nationally designated landscape. With immediate access to the South Downs Way and many other local attractions the Community Hub's unique location offers the opportunity for an important Visitor Gateway
attracting people to the area to and supporting local businesses in the process."
The Community Hub was launched after agreement was reached to buy the closed pub. A packed village meeting demonstrated support
and a Community Benefit Society was set up to raise funds: exchange on the property took place at the beginning of April.
For further details on the project contact Frances Russell