The conversion of Southwold's iconic cottage hospital into a community hub and nine affordable homes was officially marked by Hastoe and the community of Southwold and Reydon on Friday 17 June 2022.
Southwold and Reydon is the first community in England and Wales to buy back its community hospital to provide much needed affordable housing and community facilities in the area.
Four of the homes are for affordable rent and five are for shared ownership with all homes prioritised for people with a local connection to the area. The community hub has breathed new life into Southwold by providing a new home for the town’s library, a nursery, farm-to-fork café and co-working space for local entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers.
Originally funded and built by local people 125 years ago, Southwold’s cottage hospital was closed by the NHS in 2015. Fearing the locally-listed building would be demolished and redeveloped into second homes and holiday lets, the local community developed an ambitious plan that led to the formation of a social enterprise, the Southwold and Waveney Valley Regeneration Society Ltd, known as SouthGen.
SouthGen campaigned to save the building and worked with rural affordable housing specialist, Hastoe Housing Association, to buy the site. It was an innovative transaction in which both partners’ involvement was crucial. In March 2018, SouthGen bought the freehold and sold it to Hastoe, which then provided SouthGen with a 999-year leasehold for a pepper corn rent.
Work on the conversion began on site in summer 2019 and the homes and community hub were developed in partnership with architects Wellington and Modece Architects, building contractor Wellington Construction, and employer’s agent Potter Raper.
All partners, as well as the local MP and councillors, attended the official completion of works. The occasion was commemorated with the planting of a Victoria Plum tree. The tree was chosen because work to build the original hospital had started 125 years ago on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee on 22 June 1897. The refurbished hospital was completed in June 2022, coinciding with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.