A PROJECT that plans to turn a historic listed Maldon building into 30 new homes has been criticised by the Maldon Society.

The Standard reported last week that in August Essex Housing, a new section of Essex County Council, applied to Maldon District Council to convert Friary East into nine apartments, two townhouses and a further 19 flats on the site in Carmelite Way.

The building dates back to 1292 when it was founded as the Carmelite Friary – a house for the religious order of the Carmelites.

The application is still to be determined by Maldon District Council but has received 25 objection comments from the public.

However County Hall has been handed £255,735 to drive the plans forward.

But Judy Lea, Chairman of the Maldon Society, claims it is “morally wrong” for the government to give ECC funding for the project, claiming it “neglects one of the most important 200 year old buildings” in Maldon.

She said: “Together with its setting, it is Grade II listed, in the central conservation area and sits on top of potentially important archaeology.

“Too many destructive flats are proposed for the main house but the Maldon Society would support conversion for a lesser number if approved by the MDC Conservation officer.

“In demolishing the 60s hall there is an opportunity to declutter the upper part of the site and restore the visual connection between the house and its outbuildings which are still in public use.

“It is vital to ensure the whole of what remains is left potentially accessible for archaeological exploration as they can reveal a lot about the town’s history, being at its early heart.”

She added: “There is no need for this damage to an important historic house and destruction of its setting as MDC housing targets are met, and other potential already exists elsewhere in central Maldon for small dwellings.

“It would be corporate vandalism of Maldon’s heart if it proceeds.”

Councillor Sue Lissimore, of Essex Housing, said: "I am sorry to hear of the concerns expressed by the Maldon Society regarding Friary East.

"I completely agree that this is a beautiful building with an interesting history, which is why we have developed a proposal that would restore it from its current poor unusable condition to its former glory, preserving it for generations to come.

"What we’ve been able to do, through both the design of the scheme and with support from Government, is to restore the building to, provide good quality homes that are in demand, all without costing the taxpayer a penny.

"For these reasons I’m very proud to support the scheme."