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Old hospital given new lease of life by community

Southwold and Waveney Valley-based community benefit society, SouthGen, has received £75,000 in funding from Big Issue Invest, the investment arm of The Big Issue.

SouthGen is a charitable community benefit society that is democratically run by its members, on a one member, one vote basis, irrespective of how many shares they own.

SouthGen was created out of a crisis – the closure of the local hospital, and the threat that this historic building would be demolished and redeveloped as luxury housing. At the same time, it looked like the popular library might be forced to close because its lease was coming to an end and a new home couldn’t be found. SouthGen turned this crisis into an opportunity.

The organisation was incorporated in 2017 to prevent the old Southwold and District Hospital from being turned into second homes.

SouthGen then partnered with Hastoe Housing Association to become the first community group in England and Wales to buy back from the NHS the decommissioned community hospital and recycle it for new uses that promote the sustainability of a rural area on Suffolk’s East Coast – and redevelop it as an affordable housing and a community hub.

The investment from Big Issue Invest will help SouthGen’s plans to redevelop the site as a community hub come to fruition.

Danyal Sattar, CEO of Big Issue Invest, said: Danyal Sattar, CEO of Big Issue Invest, said: “We are so pleased to be able to support an organisation such as SouthGen. Coastal communities today face a particular set of challenges.  The work SouthGen does in offering shared community spaces is vital. I look forward to watching the organisation go from strength to strength!”

Mick Walker, Treasurer for SouthGen, said: “This redevelopment is a project incredibly close to our hearts. We are so pleased to have had the support of Big Issue Invest, who have helped us get closer to making our project a reality.

“The BII investment has been essential in providing bridging finance for the capital works and initial revenue funding prior to SouthGen securing further revenue support – applications for which are currently in process.”

To find out more about SouthGen, visit:

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.