Villagers packed into Cocking Village Hall on Friday for a public meeting to launch the Blue Bell community hub – the first of its kind in the South Downs National Park.
Just a few months after the campaign began to save the pub, which had closed and was in danger of being turned into houses, the £640,000 project has village-wide support.
The community hub’s president, sculptor Philip Jackson said the plan, when the current post master retired, was to incorporate the Post Office and shop across the road. “We realised we could become just a collection of houses which is not what we want – Cocking would have lost its community feel,” he said.
The hub at the Blue Bell will incorporate the pub, a restaurant and café, B&B, shop, Post Office and a wealth of activities.
A commercial tenant will run the businesses and there is also likely to be a call for volunteers.
Ideas from residents for services the hub could provide included a meeting place for groups and older people, bike repairs, an information point, free Wi-Fi, skittles, pub quizzes and themed nights, a cash machine and pop-up health services.
The hub will work alongside village businesses as well as larger organisations such as English Woodlands Timber and Goodwood.
Villagers heard the hub will be owned through a Community Benefit Society, a not-for-profit organisation. Funding will be by grants from public bodies, private loans and donations, a village share offer scheme, fund raising activities and a bank loan.
Community hub steering group chairman Peter Gibbon said: “We are delighted with such a good turnout to the launch. With the support of the South Downs National Park and the Plunkett Foundation everything is now in place to go forward and raise the remaining funds and provide a service for the village of which we can be proud.” Register at www.bluebellhub.org