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16th Apr 2021
Southwold Hospital topping out 5 2MB

An important milestone in the transformation of Southwold’s historic community hospital into a new creative community hub and nine affordable homes has taken place, with the traditional ‘topping out’ ceremony, marking the completion of external building work.

Jessica Jeans, chair of community organisation SouthGen, was joined by Andrew Potter (chief executive of Hastoe Housing Association) Cllr Will Windell (Southwold town councillor), Cllr Michael Ladd (Suffolk County Council member for Kessingland and Southwold) and Paul Pitcher (managing director of developer Wellington) to pour the specially-created Adnams ‘Old Hospital Hop’ beer over the building to mark it being watertight.

The former community hospital is being transformed into a creative community hub including a new home for Southwold Library, a nursery, space for local businesses and a farm-to-fork café, as well as nine affordable homes for local people.

Four of the affordable homes will be available to rent, with the other five available for shared ownership to help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder.  All nine will be prioritised for people with a local connection to Southwold, such as those living in the town, those with close family in the area, or those who previously lived there but were forced to move because of a lack of affordable housing.

Andrew Potter, chief executive of Hastoe Housing Association, said, “This is a fantastic community-led project providing very much-needed affordable housing for Southwold.  It is an excellent example of how working together in partnership can give an iconic building new life at the heart of the community, whilst retaining much of the character of a building which is much-loved in the town.”

Jessica Jeans, chair of SouthGen, said, “It is wonderful to see this project taking shape and reaching this important stage in its construction.  The character of the old building shines through, and the newly-constructed parts blend seamlessly with it.  It’s a terrific partnership which will provide something which will be a great source of pride in the town for generations to come.”

Paul Pitcher, managing director of Lowestoft-based Wellington, which is constructing the new building, said, “Now that the roof is on the building, the way in which we have been able to blend the old and the new is more evident.  I’m delighted to have reached this important milestone in building what will be a tremendous community resource for Southwold – as well as providing nine much-needed affordable homes for local people.”

The topping out ceremony took place just days before Hastoe launches its New-Build Standard, which emphasises the importance of working closely with local communities to ensure all its new homes suit their surroundings whilst being both energy-efficient and affordable for residents.

Hastoe has a long track record of collaborating with rural communities to provide more homes in small villages, and in December 2019 the Southwold hospital development was named the ‘Best Community or Rural Partnership’ at the Inside Housing Development Awards.

Southwold community hospital project

The iconic Southwold community hospital was built and funded by local people almost 120 years ago. As a listed building, great care will be taken during the works to restore as much of the original features as possible, with plans for the Edwardian façade to be returned to its former glory.

Spearheaded by local community group SouthGen, Southwold and Reydon was the first community in the country to buy back its community hospital in order to recycle it for new uses to benefit local people, following its closure by the NHS in 2015.

After achieving planning permission in 2018, SouthGen launched a community share offer earlier this year, providing people with the opportunity to buy shares in the new development. Almost £400,000 was raised, and a further £100,000 matching equity award was provided by the Community Shares Booster Programme, both of which will be used to fund the community hub facilities.