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New Forest National Park Authority gives green light to East Boldre shop plan in former church

A FORMER church in East Boldre looks set to become a new community shop after the national park authority approved the £690,000 scheme.

As reported in the A&T, a group of residents are advancing plans to purchase the former church building on Chapel Lane and transform it into a community shop, post office and bicycle repair facility.

The successful planning application will pave the way for the conversion of the chapel into nearly 100 square metres of retail space.

The former East Boldre Baptist Church (picture: Google)
The former East Boldre Baptist Church (picture: Google)

There will also be a multi-use area for art exhibitions and special events, a small kitchen, toilet and storage rooms.

However, the team still has to raise around £90,000 from local residents via a community share offer in order to progress.

Celebrating the news of the successful planning application, project manager Rebecca Gabzdyl, said: “This key milestone underpins our plans to change the use of East Boldre’s former chapel for our community shop and post office and to create space for essential off-road parking.

"Our proposed community use was an important factor in this decision.

“It also permits us to install solar panels, rainwater harvesting, air source heat pumps and a cycle repair station which are intrinsic to our sustainability initiatives.”

A report by NPA planning officer Carly Cochrane noted that all 30 of the comments made by local residents were in support of the application.

In total, the East Boldre Community Stores (EBCS) team need to raise £690,000 to buy the chapel, make repairs and fit out the building.

From left: Alison Moore-Gwyn, Nick Thomas, Rebecca Gabzdyl, Judith Richardson, Anna Rostand, Mike Hawker and David Moore-Gwyn
From left: Alison Moore-Gwyn, Nick Thomas, Rebecca Gabzdyl, Judith Richardson, Anna Rostand, Mike Hawker and David Moore-Gwyn

It is hoped £200,000 of this total will come from villagers with further funding from grants.

After launching a community share offer last month, over £107,000 has already been pledged by 113 local residents.

EBCS treasurer Mike Hawker said: “This is the means by which the shop becomes community owned and run, with every investor having one vote.

"The level of local support so far is inspiring. However, there is no room for complacency as the final push to meet our target before the deadline on 3rd March will not be easy.”

A community open day at the Baptist Chapel held on Saturday, enabled local people to see the plans in action.

Spokesperson Anna Rostand added: “It was a great, very enthusiastic turnout with some people investing on the spot.”

The success of the community fundraising share offer will also be used to demonstrate the local strength of support for the project to potential grant aid funders.

To find out more visit www.eastboldrecommunitystores.com/shareoffer

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