For many years the walled garden had been used by the patients of Little Plumstead hospital including the Broadland Clinic. A chance conversation between local social entrepreneur Robert Ashton 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’!
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 meets monthly and now that the project has grown, sub-committees have been formed.
Community Share Launch
Launched at our Norfolk Day Party and raised £26,020 through 72 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 to 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.
Membership is open
Each member will receive their own membership card. This will entitle them from time to time to varying member offers in the shop and café once open.
As a community benefit society, all our members are equal, with one vote per member at the annual general meeting and any extraordinary meetings that are held, irrespective of the type or number of shares held. Membership imparts shared ownership and a say in the running of the Society, including the possibility of both voting for, and being elected to, the management committee.
Your membership also shows your support for a community-owned shop and café, and will very much help our fundraising and with future grant applications as community support is a major influencing factor for many grant decisions.
Please note, £10 memberships taken up during this period will run until one year after the shop is open to give you a chance to experience the benefits.
Today the official transfer of ownership to the Parish Council took place. This is a major milestone in that we can now commence with the lease.
We have now received the lease for The Walled Garden
After more than two years of fundraising and planning, the last few months have seen the project make significant progress.
Work has started to restore the walls and prepare the garden. It is hoped that this will be completed in December, which will allow work on the foundations of the shop and café to begin.
If all goes to plan, the shop and café could be open for business in the summer.
With many months of hard work gone by, we have finally signed the lease for the site. It's official, we are go, go, go!!!
Super excited that we have now had the official handover of the site to The Walled Garden