Future of market town businesses in doubt after over-55s accommodation plans

The future of a number of businesses in Halesworth is in doubt. Picture: Nick Butcher

The future of a number of businesses in Halesworth is in doubt. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The future of a number of businesses in a market town is in doubt after plans were lodged to transform their site into housing for over-55s.

Change of use plans have been lodged with East Suffolk Council to convert Miles Ward Court in Halesworth into five homes, with current tenants warned they will need to relocate after April 2020 if plans are approved.

Hugh Hales, whose Suffolk Massage business has been at the site since it's redevelopment 11 years ago, has labelled the plans "barmy."

He said: "It came out of the blue, but looks like something else we will lose in Halesworth.

"I think I might have to wind up, but I am hoping something might change. It is insane to me. No one can park anywhere. It's barmy.

"It does not lend itself to accommodation for the elderly. Some elderly clients can't visit because of the ramp, and it is lethal here in the winter snow."

At an extraordinary meeting of Halesworth Town Council last month, councillors submitted a recommendation to East Suffolk Council that the plans are refused.

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Businesses were told in September that tenancies beyond April 2020 would be "unlikely," although Foundation East, who manage the site, will continue to provide business spaces until planning permission is granted.

Mr Hales said: "The impact on the town will be huge.

"I have clients coming from abroad and they stay in the town and generate money here. They all say what a pretty town this is and that is all going to be lost.

"This place is ideal for me, in a central location, and there is nowhere else to move to.

"How can you run a business and plan when you don't know what's going to happen?"

Tenants were advised in a letter in July that Foundation East were looking to redevelop Miles Ward Court, a Grade II listed building, to maximise use of the property. They also said they were working with partners to find possible alternative premises to relocate businesses.

Katy Ford, chief executive of Foundation East, said: "We have informed our tenants of our plans and the business decisions behind them.

"We have not served notice on them, but informed them we may be unable to renew their tenancy agreements when they come up for renewal.

"We have offered full support to those affected."