(Photo courtesy of Chris Orange)
Given the increasing tendency for our social life to be online rather than face-to-face, having relaxed, accessible venues where people can meet friends and make new ones becomes ever more necessary.
Proposed external refurbishment
In Cocking we were in danger of loosing not only our only pub to housing but also when our postmaster retires our only shop and post office. So last year we set up a Community Benefit Society to raise funds. It is run by a group of local people who are passionate about saving the heart of the village.
On 30th April 2019 the purchase of The Blue Bell was completed with the financial support of so many Cocking residents, friends and supporters, some loans and partner grants including the Plunkett Foundation and Co-op Finance.
This is a tremendous achievement and has, within the 6 months since we set out, managed to save a key asset for our community capable of providing a facility that will support the area for years to come.
The Blue Bell Community Hub Refurbishment Fund is set up and we are now applying for further grants which are only now available when we had ownership.
The total refurbishment cost is £150,000. This money will be raised through further Community Share sales, donations, grants, other investors, community fundraising events with a Crowdfunder target of a further £12,000 (£8,000 was raised for the purchase).
Of the £640,000 we needed to raise, £490,000 was for the purchase of the property and associated costs and this was raised thanks to over 150 shareholders and donors.
To date we have £20,000 of the £150,000 in the fund of which some £3,500 has been raised through local events. We need to build this up to allow us to undertake the refurbishment work. There is a lot of hard work ahead with many villagers offering their support and assistance in the clearance, garden preparation and decoration and fund raising events. The main bulk of the heavy work will be carried out by contractors and this will commence once we have secured most of the funds.
Garden clearance has commenced
We are reaching out to all who support community projects such as this, especially those that live in the area or visit to enjoy the South Downs National Park
Now the community owns the property we would like as many people as possible to invest or donate to make this a truly community venture – please support us.
Proposed new Bar
We have programmed to make the building much more usable and inviting for all. This will include:
Outside we will get bike racks, a bike repair shed and dedicated maintenance area with water, compressed air and a toolset. We will provide more parking places (including dedicated disabled spaces) and repair the paving. We will also reinstate the garden area with outdoor seating and provide hedging/fencing on the raised part to make it safe for children.
It is going to be a real community hub; please help to make this happen.
We are a small village of 200+ homes that nestles in the folds of the South Downs. The village is called Cocking in West Sussex, 3 miles south of Midhurst and 7 miles north of Chichester, on the busy A286 the main road north south.
The village has a thriving community that has some 470 inhabitants. There has been a pub on the site of the Blue Bell since 1635.
We have an 11th Century Church, a historic millennium column, the Philip Jackson Studio and are a very popular destination for visitors to the South Down National Park and our current post office serves not only our village but 5 other villages around us.
The Blue Bell Community Hub will become a hive of community and voluntary activity, providing a pub, café/restaurant, bed and breakfast, a shop and when our postmaster retires our post office. It will be a focal point for community events and services. It will actively promote inclusion and take care to involve people of all ages and backgrounds, particularly looking out for the most vulnerable in our community. The Hub will play an important role in addressing loneliness and isolation through the creation of employment and volunteering opportunities.
You can either donate what you can afford or buys shares.
Shares will be priced at £50 each, with a minimum shareholding per application of five shares (i.e. £250 investment). Groups of friends, family members or clubs could group together to achieve the minimum holding.
However, you should note that only the first named investor on the application form will be a Member of The Society with voting rights. Under the rules of the Community Share Offer scheme voting is on the basis of one vote per shareholder. The maximum private shareholding will be set at £10,000.
Purchase of the minimum number of shares will confer membership of the Society, giving members control over the business through the annual election of a Management Committee and voting rights on significant issues at regular meetings.
We now have over 150 supporters from the community, those around us, those that visit our beautiful South Downs and those that appreciate the importance of community projects such as ours.
The hub will contain a South Downs National Park Visitor Gateway, one of the first embedded right on the edge of the South Downs Way. The Visitor Gateway will provide information on the local area, maps, trails, routes etc. and this will attract more visitors and be accessible and welcoming to all who either live or visit here.
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 local communities living within it and on the fringes to be able 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 itself to become an important Visitor Gateway attracting people to the area to enjoy the special qualities of the National Park and supporting local businesses in the process.”
Being on the main A286 route down to the coast between Midhurst and Chichester we are well placed, just off the South Downs Way, as a popular destination for walkers, cyclists (on and off road) and those that enjoy the Park and wish to stay in our area (the pub and the village are well supported with B&B facilities).
We are also on the main route to Goodwood motor circuit famous for its festival of speed and revival.
The Goodwood race course attracts many visitors here each year, plus the Weald and Downland Museum and West Dean Gardens are just down the road and regularly use our facilities.All in all we are well placed to support not only the community we live in but also the many visitors and passers by that enjoy the Park and all its attractions.
Please join us by supporting us in our venture. If we can save not only the Blue Bell pub, the only pub in our village, but also be in a place to accommodate our only shop and its post office, it will 'breath life into our Community' and enable us to provide facilities for all those that visit us. Many thanks for your time.
"The Steering group formed to save the Blue Bell and create the Blue Bell Hub are incredibly impressive in the enthusiasm, expertise and knowledge they bring to the task and by the hard work they are putting in to ensure that the Blue Bell lives on in the heart of the village and its community".
Philip Jackson CVO DL MA FRBS
Blue Bell Community Hub Limited