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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt awards £300,000 to East Boldre store plans as fundraising nears goal

AMBITIOUS plans to transform a former East Boldre church into a community shop have been boosted by a £300,000 award by the Chancellor and local support worth a further £250,000.

A group of residents are advancing plans to purchase the building in Chapel Lane and transform it into a village store, post office and bicycle repair facility at an anticipated cost of £690,000.

In February the scheme received planning permission from the national park authority, and so far 287 local people have pledged a total of £225,000 through a community share offer.

The former baptist church in East Boldre (picture: Google)
The former baptist church in East Boldre (picture: Google)

In last week’s budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced East Boldre Community Store had been awarded £299,500 by the Community Ownership Fund as part of the government’s “levelling-up” agenda.

It was one of just 23 successful projects in England to receive cash in the latest grant programme.

The funds will see the former chapel converted into nearly 100 square metres of retail space with a multi-use area for art exhibitions and special events, plus a small kitchen, toilet and storage rooms.

Project spokesperson Rebecca Gabzdyl said: “It’s been a hugely successful couple of months for East Boldre Community Stores as all of the effort the management committee have put in since August last year has started to bear fruit.”

Locally, a community share raised £225,000 from 287 local residents in just six weeks, with a further £23,000 received in donations.

Ms Gabzdyl added: “We are delighted with the response to our share offer and want to thank every one of our investors.

“It shows what people can achieve when they work together and is a real measure of the community support for the Chapel Stores project.

“It gives our team of volunteers the confidence and motivation to tackle the challenges ahead.”

The £550,000 received from the shared offer and government grant has been further boosted by awards from Beaulieu Beaufort Foundation and New Forest District Council.

That has enabled the community store team to push ahead with purchasing the building, and begin planning the necessary building work.

East Boldre Community Stores treasurer Mike Hawker said: “We still have some fundraising to do with a further £120,000 needed, but these successes will give the funders yet to be approached confidence in our project.”

It is hoped the new shop will open for business in October.

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