A plan to build retirement homes on a site used by a printing company has been refused by councillors.

The application for 33 retirement homes in Lavenham’s conservation area was voted down unanimously by Babergh District Council’s planning committee today (October 19), in line with officers’ recommendations.

The proposal from McCarthy Stone Retirement Lifestyles was for 20 one-bed apartments and 13 two-bed apartments on the site currently used by Lavenham Press on Water Street. These would be two-storey.

Lavenham Press is a family-run printing company. Its commercial buildings were to be knocked down to make way for the 0.52-hectare development and the business will be relocated.

One of the reasons officers recommended refusal was the loss of employment land, which was found to contravene Babergh’s local plan.

Sudbury Mercury: The site layout for the projectThe site layout for the project (Image: Inspire Design Ltd)

The officers’ report suggests Lavenham Press provides employment for the local area. The company has more than 50 members of staff, although Lavenham’s parish council suggests the proportion of workers who are also residents of the town is low.

The report also points to overdevelopment, as the application site is larger than the current Lavenham Press site and would, according to the report, “dwarf” the homes on Walter Street.

Officers also considered the proposed development to be disadvantaged as it involved knocking down a two-storey nineteenth-century building. While this is not listed, Historic England stated the building contributes positively to the conservation area.

Lack of measures to mitigate for the high risk of surface water flooding in the area and the fact that none of the houses would be affordable were also mentioned as reasons for the officers’ decision.

As well as the homes, a refuse store, guest suite, office, mobility scooter store and communal lounge with kitchen and dining area were included in the application – as were 31 parking spaces, four of which would be for visitors.

The Lavenham Society and Lavenham Parish Council objected to the proposed development, while Historic England and the district council’s heritage team expressed concerns about potential harm to the area and its character.

A public consultation on the development returned 51 objections and 12 comments in support.