For many years the walled garden had been used by the patients of little plumstead hospital including the Broadland clinic. A chance conversation between Robert and a Doctor at the clinic planted the seed of a vision; to bring the walled garden into community ownership, to build a community owned shop and café and to re-establish the lost link with the Broadland Clinic.
Through Norfolk Pro Help, Norfolk Property Services provided, without cost, initial project designs and costings. A survey to test local opinion was organized by the BC and Parish Council and from the replies received the response was an overwhelming ‘yes’!
A public meeting was held at Little Plumstead Primary school, from which a steering group of local volunteers was created.
We decided to form a Community Benefit Society. This is a not-for-profit enterprise owned by its members; in essence very similar to a cooperative.
We are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and incorporated in October 2017. We are also members of The Plunkett Foundation, which has been inspiring and empowering communities since 1919, and who helped us to incorporate. We have used their model rules for our society. These require us to have a Management Committee and this was created by volunteers from the steering group. The Management Committee meet monthly and now that the project has grown, sub committees have been formed.
Launched at our Norfolk Day Party and raised £23,250 through 65 members. Advance assurance from HMRC has since been received.
Full planning application was approved by Broadland District Council in November 2018.
Whilst the management committee was encouraged by the share issue response it was clear that as it stood the project was over ambitious. The management committee made the decision to downscale (Plan B) and the membership was advised.
In Spring 2018, National Lottery Grants decided to no longer fund new build projects, and this was a major blow. Disappointing grant application results, together with the amount raised through the community share issue made it difficult to foresee how and when we would be able raise enough capital. Plan B was born; a reduced building of around 100m2, still as a shop and café. It was crafted within the terms and conditions of The Rural Development Leader Program grant to enable an application. The building is now based on a modular build, which is becoming an increasingly popular lower cost type of construction with the benefit of improved energy ratings compared to traditional style construction.
The lease with the Parish Council has been agreed, for an initial 20 years at a peppercorn rent and we hope to have this completed by the end of March 2019. We have appointed Leathes Prior as our solicitors.