AMBITIOUS plans to create a community hub on the Berkeley Hospital site and potentially save the threatened library service in the town are now underway.

Members of local charity the Berkeley Hospital League of Friends are working hard on creating a business case to present to NHS Gloucestershire, who will close the hospital at the end of 2011 to transfer its services to Dursley.

The NHS has offered the Marybrook site to the community for a peppercorn rent if those running the building can demonstrate that the services they would provide would be of benefit to local people and particularly have a positive effect on the health of the population.

In response to this the League of Friends has come up with a range of ideas for what they call a "community drop-in centre" including activities and fitness classes for the elderly, a memory café for people with dementia, business workshops run by Stroud College, a physiotherapy outpatient clinic, police advice surgeries, internet access and rooms to rent by community organisations.

The building could also house a small library run by volunteers to replace the town’s current library, which is due to be shut under cost-cutting proposals by Gloucestershire County Council.

Eugene Camper, treasurer of the League of Friends, said: "Everyone is very positive about the plans. Berkeley is losing its hospital, its secondary school, now its library. To have something for Berkeley coming back into the town is hugely popular and positive."

Mr Camper said that they were focused on making a business case for the site by January 20 – a deadline set by NHS Gloucestershire – but they would need to be sure they could afford to fund the enterprise before going ahead.

"This could be very expensive," he told the Gazette. "The old listed building will be costly to run with water, gas and sewage for instance. We won’t go ahead unless we are sure it can be funded."

The League of Friends is asking for offers of help from the community and expressions of interest from local companies who might wish to rent a room inside the building. Mr Camper said it would be an ideal place for a dentist surgery or clinic of some kind, or could even be a craft shop.

Mayor of Berkeley Philip Stevenson said he was very impressed with the ideas and was keen to see a library service retained in the town.

"The town council agreed that we would very much like to keep the library service. My family use the library regularly and would miss it if it were gone," said Cllr Stevenson.

"Really it would be another nail in the coffin for Berkeley with all the services being taken away from us, so we are very keen on plans for it to be incorporated in the hospital site."

If you are a business interested in renting a room, or a resident able to help, email and your details will be passed to Eugene Camper.