Since The George Café in Newnham closed its doors in April 2018 we’ve been campaigning to buy the building for the village and establish it as a community hub. Here’s the story so far.
The George Café in Newnham is owned by Camphill Village Trust (CVT), a nationwide charity providing residential care for adults with special needs. Originally created to offer employment for nearby Camphill residents, The George was a much-loved and well-used local venue for many years, but gradually fell into decline, mainly as a result of changed priorities within CVT.
In early 2018, CVT announced that it would be closing the café. Worried about the impact on the village, a group of us decided it was time to act. After campaigning successfully for it to be registered as an Asset of Community Value we began to explore the possibility of buying it for the local community. In early 2019 we formed ourselves into a community benefit society (NoSCBS Ltd) and launched a campaign to raise £500,000 to turn The George into a multi-purpose social hub.
The Community Share Offer
Armed with our business plan (see right), in March 2019 we launched a community share offer which raised nearly £150,000. With additional money from grants, social investment loans and fundraising, we went on to make an offer of £350,000 for the building in the summer of last year. Much to our disappointment, this was rejected by the vendors, and in September 2019 the property went on the open market for £400,000.
Since that time the building has remained empty and neglected, and the owners have shown very little inclination to drop the price. As far as we know, no other buyers have come forward.
The impact of Coronavirus
All our plans are currently on hold as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the future of the project is uncertain. Under social distancing regulations many of the uses we originally planned to introduce at The George are unworkable. We will certainly need to rethink our business plan, and perhaps even consider a completely new role for the building. But our vision of the George as a welcoming, inclusive space in the heart of the village has not altered.
We still believe that The George could be a highly successful community business, and we are continuing to explore new ideas that could revitalise The George and make our community more resilient when the immediate threat from Coronavirus is over.
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