Plans to change former hostel for domestic abuse charity's work

An application to convert the former Lighthouse hostel on Felixstowe Road into an office space has been submitted.

An application to convert the former Lighthouse hostel on Felixstowe Road into an office space has been submitted. - Credit: Google Maps

An application to convert a former hostel on Felixstowe Road into an office space for an Ipswich domestic abuse charity has been submitted. 

St Raphael House at 238 Felixstowe Road has previously been as a hostel for Lighthouse Women’s Aid charity. However, the application form submitted to Ipswich Borough Council indicates that the building has been unoccupied since 2015. 

Now, the Ipswich-based charity has proposed to convert the building into a training centre, office space and associated breakout rooms.

A planning statement prepared by Wilkinson Planning consultants made the point that the way users interact with this service had changed since the pandemic, and that this proposed change would better enable the charity to meet their needs. 

It said: “The LWA (Lighthouse Women’s Aid) provide in person and online training programmes to women and their children who have [been] / are affected by domestic abuse.  

“Since the pandemic, in person services have been scaled back, but online services have surged. The LWA have also moved to a hybrid working system where staff work both from home and the office.  

“This has been the driver for consolidating operations into one place (Felixstowe Road), as well as the fact that it is accessible for disabled users, which our current centre in Berners Street is not. 

“The LWA offer numerous advice sessions to women throughout the week, almost all of which are conducted over the phone. The LWA also support children but much of this is carried out in school and not through the LWA premises.” 

Lighthouse has been offering support and refuge to women, young people and children in Ipswich who have suffered domestic abuse since 1976. In 2012, the building was opened as a community women's centre.

The building was opened in 2012 as a community women's centre.

The building was opened in 2012 as a community women's centre. Pictured at the time: Ipswich Mayor Mary Blake, BBC Radio Suffolk host Mark Murphy and CEO of Lighthouse Women’s Aid Sally Winston. - Credit: Archant

The building was opened in 2012 as community women's centre by then BBC Radio Suffolk host Mark Murphy

The building was opened in 2012 as community women's centre by then BBC Radio Suffolk host Mark Murphy and Ipswich Mayor Mary Blake. - Credit: Archant

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The statement continued: “The loss of a hostel use by this proposal is acknowledged, however, the real extent of material public harm is limited at best given the longstanding underutilised nature of the building.  

“There would be far more benefits by bringing the LWA to this premises, with a fully functioning bespoke training centre, office and associated breakout rooms.” 

Ipswich Borough Council will make its decision in due course.