The Blue Bell Community Hub in Cocking moved a step closer as villagers announced local support has enabled them to buy their threatened pub.
Now they are seeking the final funds for refurbishment and a tenant to take on the pub hub.
Completion on the purchase took place on April 30 and a Community Share Offer remains open for anyone to invest. People can also support via donations on the project’s crowdfunding site. Three quarters of the targeted £637,000 has been raised, with another £150,000 to be found.
The village is now preparing to refurbish the building and is holding a series of fundraising projects – a quiz night raised money in March and on May 22 an Open Garden and Charity Fair will be held at Crypt Farm and an Open Gardens Event will be held on June 16.
Villagers and supporters from further afield rallied round to help provide the funds for the new facility at Cocking, as well as a visitor gateway for the South Downs National Park.
In addition to pledges, grants and generous support from local and national trusts and donors, a Community Share Offer has seen more than 80 households so far invest, which will not only save the pub, but provide a shop, café, meeting place and the post office when the village post master retires.
Peter Gibbon, one of the villagers spearheading the fundraising campaign, said: “The hub will be a hive of community and voluntary activity, a relaxed, accessible venue where people of all ages can enjoy the pub, restaurant and café. It will enhance community life, preventing social isolation and bring young and old together. It will also create employment and volunteering opportunities, and we plan to partner with local charities to offer garden maintenance, bicycle repairs and the chance to work in the café.
“By working with the South Downs National Park, we have been determined not to lose the key assets of our community and to welcome all those visiting the South Downs and key destinations in the area, such as the Weald and Downland Living Museum, West Dean College and Goodwood.”
Peter added: “We are now seeking a suitable tenant to run the venue, to live on site and share in the vision for the pub to become a true social hub, providing facilities and services that bring the community together and serve its visitors.”