PEOPLE hoping to see Salisbury’s youth hostel remain open are celebrating after plans to turn it into retirement homes were rejected by planning officers.

Wiltshire Council’s planning department decided that converting Milford Hill House into four two-bed apartments with 11 new homes in the grounds would results in a loss of tourist accommodation that is needed in the city.

An officer’s report said: “There is a well documented shortfall of tourist accommodation within Salisbury, particularly within the budget sector.”

During the last full financial year the occupancy rate at the hostel, which is currently operated by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) was 62.9 per cent, which equates to between 15,000 and 20,000 bed spaces a year.

“The youth hostel therefore makes a significant contribution to south Wiltshire tourism and the local economy due to the large number of bed spaces provided, its affordable nature and accessible location on the edge of Salisbury city centre,” the report added.

But the YHA says the building is not viable as a youth hostel anymore and does not provide the service people want. It says it wants to maintain a hostel in the city but needs to find an alternative site.

At a consultation event unveiling the plans, feedback from neighbouring residents was largely positive, but the council received objections to the plans from the city council and the tourism officer along with 46 letters of objection from members of the public and a petition with 373 signatures.

Henry Thornton from developer Genepi Property said they were very disappointed with the officers’ decision and had wanted the application to go to the council’s planning committee so they could explain the proposal to councillors.

Mr Thornton said: “It’s a very unfortunate decision and it doesn’t take account of the YHA’s unique position. They have been looking at this for over five years; they haven’t rushed into it. “It’s not that they don’t want to have a youth hostel in Salisbury, but they have to be pragmatic. It’s not viable to run that type of budget accommodation on that site.”

He said Genepi is in discussion with the YHA about what to do next but no decision has yet been made.

Jonathan Bryan, owner and managing director of Discover Adventure, based in Coombe Bissett, has said he is interested in taking on the site and maintaining it as a hostel. “I’m really pleased they have refused the application,” he said, “and I know other people are too, including the city council and VisitWiltshire. To lose the hostel would have a big impact on Salisbury.”