The future of a listed social housing estate in Kingswear is in doubt after its owner admitted it has been closed because it is too expensive to heat.

The Priory, a Grade II listed building with a 16th Century gateway, was bequeathed to South Hams District Council (SHDC) in 1980 by its then owner, Leonora Carlow.

SHDC transferred its entire stock of council homes to Tor Homes - now Live West - in 1999 and the period property was subsequently converted into separate flats, but it has stood empty since the beginning of the year, sparking concerns that it has fallen into disuse.

LiveWest, which owns and manages more than 40,000 homes in the south west, issued a statement saying it had decided to close the building because of high heating costs.

In a statement, director Glynnis Poole told this paper: “Our priority is to build sustainable, affordable homes and it is not possible for The Priory to achieve our high energy-efficiency standards.

“The period property is expensive for our customers to heat and challenging to meet our long-term objective of carbon net zero for our homes. We therefore made the difficult decision to close the building and find alternative accommodation for our customers.”

Ms Poole added that the company, which has pledged to build 5,000 new affordable homes in the south west over the next five years, was working with SHDC “to explore all future options for the building”, but would not clarify whether it might put it up for sale.

She said: “We appreciate there is a shortage of affordable homes in South Devon and we continue to work with our partners to identify opportunities for affordable housing development to meet local housing need.”

The government binned energy efficiency targets for homes last year, including a previous policy requiring landlords to meet a minimum Energy Efficiency Rating (EPC) of ‘C’ by 2028. Undertaking major renovation work on a listed property can be much more expensive, however. According to an Inside Housing report, a suitable replacement for a timber sash window can cost more than 2.5 times compared with a plastic window.

Cllr Denise O’Callaghan, SHDC’s head of housing, said: “We are trying to understand as quickly as possible what their future plans are for this building. It is a priority for the council to ensure there is safe, good quality accommodation for people on our housing register.”

Jonathan Hawkins raised concerns about the building earlier this month (Archive photo)

Kingswear parish councillor Jonathan Hawkins raised the issue with SHDC last week.

He accused LiveWest of letting the property fall into disrepair and said any proposed sale should be stopped.

“It needs damp proofing - they should have kept on top of this. I’m sure when they find a multi-millionaire (to buy it) they’ll do fine, but they should at least offer it to the council or the local community - Kingswear has few options for new development,” he said.

The news follows revelations that a new, state-of-the-art energy efficient housing estate in Bigbury lies empty six months after it was officially opened by SHDC due to issues with a contractor.