Controversial plans to convert business units into over-55s housing rejected
PUBLISHED: 15:43 14 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:43 14 October 2020
Controversial plans which saw a number of small businesses evicted from their premises have been rejected by councillors.
Foundation East, which owns nine small business units at Miles Ward Court, in Halesworth, had proposed converting the units into five residential homes for over-55s.
The proposals sparked criticism from business owners when plans were announced, with tenants evicted from the site in April.
At a meeting of East Suffolk Council’s north planning committee on Tuesday, October 13, agent Ben Elvin, speaking on behalf of Foundation East, denied the proposals were about making profit, with funds from the sale of the converted homes used for services elsewhere in the charity’s portfolio.
The charity had previously warned it was unsustainable to continue to rent out the units.
He said: “Foundation East is a not-for-profit charity and their work benefits the community and does not line the pockets of shareholders.
“The cost to convert the site into the business centre cost over £460,000 and the value of the property now is at £187,000, a loss of over £270,000.
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“The allegations about Foundation East’s intentions, particularly about making profit, are unfounded but they cannot continue to run the premises in the way they are.
“There is a need for such accommodation in every Suffolk village and town.”
Concerns had been raised by councillors and objectors, however, about access to the site.
Cars are unable to access the properties, while access to the site includes a steep slope, with concerns raised for those with mobility problems or disabilities.
Peter Dutton, chair of Halesworth Town Council’s planning committee, said: “These small business units have enabled many start-up companies to find premises and develop.
“At an extraordinary meeting last October the town council recommended refusal on planning grounds, highways safety, lack of parking, disabled access, drainage and flood risk and the shortage of these units in the town.
“In the meantime nothing has changed.”
Recommending refusal of the plans on the basis of access and a lack of amenity, councillor Paul Ashdown said: “As an over-55 I certainly would not want to live in a place like that, especially without an outside space to hang my clothes out to dry.”
Councillors unanimously refused the plans.
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