A 16th-century building will be converted back into a family home after the owners retired, closing their care home business.

The grade II listed Fenners Farmhouse in Fersfield near Diss has been a residential care home for adults with learning disabilities since the 1980s.

The owners, Steven and Gill Bradfield, attempted to sell the business several times since 2017, so residents could stay where they knew.

"There are many constraints with the building in terms of its size, listed status and location that limits any potential interest," Chris Watts, South Norfolk Council officer, told the planning committee on Wednesday.

Mr Watts said there was not a reasonable prospect of the building being retained for employment use and supported it being returned to a home.

Sarah Roberts from Robert Miller Architects speaking on behalf of the applicants, said they had initially received some interest in the property, with one Norwich firm offering £625,000, but talks fell through over them failing to meet anti-money laundering criteria.

Ms Roberts said a voluntary liquidation process was considered the best way to ensure all staff could receive redundancy payments in full and help them find alternative employment.

"We feel that we had done everything possible to sell the business as a going concern, but it just didn't work out that way.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 was a bridge too far and we now respect respectfully asking that the Planning Committee allow us to return this lovely old house back to a family residence and also to allow us to make sympathetic changes to the inside.”

Councillor Graham Minshull said it was sad to see a care home close, especially as the reports from the care home have been very good.

He added: “Unfortunately these small care homes now it’s very expensive to maintain and it’s very difficult to keep an older building up to the required standards and regulations.

“I think it is reasonable that it is returned back to a family home and hopefully it will be much loved and looked after in the future.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to return the property to a home.

Company reaction

Speaking after the meeting, Gill Bradfield, the manager and director of Fenners said she was emotional at seeing the care home close, describing it as feeling like a family.

"It's been an amazing part of our lives," she said.

"It was a project my mother set up 32 years ago.

"I was training as a learning disability nurse at the time.

"It's evolved as a residential home for adults with learning disabilities.

"We're very sad to see it go, primarily because social care isn't supported well enough. We wanted to do what's best by the residents.

Adding: "One of the sad things is that we have always looked after the people who have worked for us - I have employed some amazing people - but social care is just so unequal, it's not financed properly."

The staff and residents at the home have now been found alternative places.