Blue Bell pub community hub project share offer takes off

Residents with a banner advertising the Blue Bell Community Hub share offer. Photo contributed
Residents with a banner advertising the Blue Bell Community Hub share offer. Photo contributed

Villagers in Cocking are being encouraged to join in with a community share offer to help save the Blue Bell pub as a hub for the community.

The project, which is set to be the first of its kind in the South Downs National Park, envisions facilities ranging from a bed & breakfast to a shop and Post Office at the pub, owned by a community group.

Support is also being sought from grants from national bodies, donations and crowdfunding for the project, which is already attracting interest.

Vice chairman of the Blue Bell steering committee Nico Dekker said: “We are off to a flying start with over 40 share applications and donations so far and one third of our initial offer total raised.”

The group behind the scheme is seeking a suitable tenant to run the pub, to live on site and share in the vision for it to become a true social hub, providing facilities and services that bring the community together.

It says the successful candidate must have at least two-three years’ experience, be extremely well organised and keen to work in partnership with the community. The hub will include the pub, a restaurant and café, bed & breakfast, a shop, and eventually the Post Office when the postmaster retires.

A visitor centre for walkers, cyclists and other visitors to the South Downs National Park is also set to be provided by the park authority.

The community hub was launched after a possible housing scheme at the threatened pub was stopped and agreement reached to purchase the building from the current owner.

A packed village meeting demonstrated support and a Community Benefit Society was set up to raise funds.

Pledges have already been received from some grant-giving bodies but £630,000 is needed in total.

Steering committee chairman Peter Gibbon said: “This whole process has really caught the imagination of the community – there’s a real buzz and they can’t wait for it to open.”

An opening morning is planned at the Blue Bell on Saturday between 10am to 12pm for those who wish to see the plans.

To find out more and to support the project go to www.bluebellhub.org, www.crowdfunder.co.uk/blue-bell-community-hub.

Shares will be priced at £50 each, with a minimum shareholding per application of five shares. Offer closes March 31.