THE city centre Tesco in Salisbury is to be demolished and rebuilt with a hotel above, after planners gave the thumbs up to the development.

Wiltshire Council’s southern area planning committee approved the application from Spenhill Developments Ltd, which is owned by Tesco, at a meeting held at South Wilts School on Thursday, despite pleas from B&B owners in the city to protect their livelihoods and turn down the proposal.

Committee chairman Fred Westmoreland said the back of the existing Tesco store is “quite possibly the ugliest place in Salisbury” and added that having the chance to change that should not be overlooked.

“Salisbury has a habit of saying ‘no’ to everything,” he said, “and that will probably continue. It is why other cathedral cities are more vibrant than ours. I’m sure that you could probably design something that would look prettier but we have seen a lot of things that look worse.”

The application, which will see the Tesco Metro and Avon and Riverside Houses in Castle Street turned into a replacement ground floor shop with a 65-bedroom budget hotel above it, split the committee, with the main concerns about the design of the development.

Salisbury member Ian Tomes said: “Tesco has got the money to put a really lovely building there. This is ok, it’s better than what is there but it’s not good enough for that site and it’s not good enough for Salisbury.”

But members said the impact on existing hotels and B&B’s was not a planning matter and felt that the new hotel would be attractive to a different type of tourist and would bring more people into the city, boosting local trade.

Cllr Chris Devine said: “It might not be the best design but anything that brightens up that area of the city has got to be a good thing. Plus, a 65-bedroom hotel is great. There are a lot of backpackers who need somewhere to stay, and this is going to be a good thing.

The developer plans to demolish all existing buildings, with the exception of the historic brickwork frontage onto Castle Street.

The new store will fill the majority of the ground and first floor space, with entrances at the front and back, and there will be a café on the third floor, fronting onto Castle Street.

The riverside frontage will be four-storey with the third and fourth floors accommodating the hotel, which would be accessed from that side of the development.

Spenhill will also landscape and open up the river front side while retaining and remodelling the existing car park with 65 spaces to be shared between the hotel and the store.

The application was passed by five votes to four.