SouthGen – The Old Hospital Southwold

SouthGen - The Old Hospital Southwold

About the project

The Old Hospital is a repurposed Victorian cottage hospital which is now home to Southwold Library and three community businesses – Childwise Nursery, Southworld Works co-working space, and farm-to-fork café The Canteen.

It has taken six years of local people’s hard work and determination to get to where they are today. In 2015 the Southwold and District Hospital was closed and advertised for sale, and at the same time the local library was threatened with closure.

A group of local people came together to turn this crisis into an opportunity for community-led development. The community developed a vision for the site comprising five main elements: affordable housing, library, co-working space, nursery, and farm-to-fork café.

The aim was to raise community shares so that SouthGen members could own the hospital, decide how profits could be reinvested and ensure that the hospital remained in community ownership in perpetuity. The community came together in support of SouthGen with their vision to buy the site and develop community-led housing and a community hub.

In 2018, SouthGen developed a partnership with Hastoe Housing Association to buy the site and in 2019 they successfully raised over £1milllion through grants and £500,000 in community shares.

The old Hospital is now owned by Southgen's 377 members, who have worked closely with an architecture firm who are pioneers in environmentally sustainable architecture.

They have now opened the first phase of the scheme – the library, nursery, coworking space and café. Work is currently underway on community-led housing.

SouthGen has demonstrated how to maximise community power by working on a Neighbourhood Plan. Through this plan, they developed three specific policies to ensure that the land at the old hospital is designated for permanently affordable housing delivered by community-led housing groups. This made the site less attractive to developers and therefore provided the conditions to ensure that community-led development was the first choice rather than the last.

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