'Critical milestone' as replica chimneys installed on hospital revamp project
- Credit: Pattie Tobin/SouthGen
Replica chimneys based on the original Southwold and District Hospital have been erected on the building's reconstruction as it prepares to reopen as a housing and community hub.
The hospital, which closed in 2015, is being transformed into a series of affordable homes, business units and will house the town's library.
The project is being undertaken by SouthGen, a community group formed to prevent the hospital from being demolished to make way for second homes.
It is estimated that second homes make up more than half of the property in Southwold.
SouthGen's 477 members will each own a share in the community hub after fundraising around £500,000 for the scheme, while another £1million in grants was donated.
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Redevelopment on the building began in July 2019 and replica chimneys weighing two-and-a-half tonnes based on the former hospital's design were placed on the structure on Friday.
The hub is set to open in the autumn.
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Jessica Jeans, chairwoman of SouthGen, said the organisation was determined to preserve the original hospital's design with the rebuild.
She said: "We wanted to preserve as much of the Victorian building as possible - it's a local landmark.
"It was really important that we retained the chimneys. It will look like the original building from the outside when it's finished.
"The restoration of the chimneys are a critical milestone in the construction. We're now in the beginning of the home stretch."
In March 2018, SouthGen officially took control of the hospital in Field Stile Road after seeing its plans for the site approved by what is now East Suffolk Council the year before.
After more than 18 months of construction, the project, in conjunction with developers Hastoe Housing Association and Wellington Construction, is nearing completion.
Mrs Jeans paid tribute to all of SouthGen's members for their contributions and said she was eager to see the building formally open later this year.
She said: "It's been a huge effort. It's the first project of its kind in the UK.
"For a small community to undertake a project of this size is overwhelming, but we've done it. Where there's a will, there's a way.
"All of the profits from this project will go back into the community."