A MEETING to decide whether Salisbury’s youth hostel will be turned into retirement homes was held at City Hall.
Developer Genepi Property is appealing against Wiltshire Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the 70- bed hostel in Milford Hill to be turned into a retirement homes scheme.
Genepi wants to convert Milford Hill House into four two-bedroom apartments and build 11 new homes in the grounds but the council’s planning department says the lowcost tourist accommodation is needed in the city.
Planning inspector Sukie Tamplin heard from Genepi, the council, the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), Salisbury city councillors, a YHA member and representatives from Discover Adventure and Visit Wiltshire.
Jonathan Bryan from Discover Adventure, who put in an offer to buy the site from the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) to continue trading as a hostel, said: “It is clear to me and probably most people in Salisbury that YHA provide bed spaces and the loss of them would be detrimental to Salisbury.”
David Andrews from VisitWiltshire said there is a “significant lack” of youthrelated accommodation.
“There is clear evidence that there is a strong demand for hostel accommodation and other forms of youth accommodation,”
YHA says it agrees there is a demand for budget bed spaces but that the building is no longer viable and does not provide the service people want.
The hostel, set to close on December 31, is almost at full capacity during the summer months, often with campers outside too, and the average spend of one customer is £19.
Part of the building is grade II listed and YHA says it cannot afford to make all the alterations that would be needed to continue running it.
It wants to sell the site and find an alternative location in the city for a new hostel providing 120 bed spaces.
The company is looking at the possibility of a new building as part of the Maltings redevelopment and another possibility is the space above Tesco in Salisbury city centre when the store is demolished and rebuilt with a hotel above it.
But those against the proposals said they are concerned the association would leave Salisbury and not return because it will find it hard to find suitable premises.
They suggested spending some money on the building, which hasn’t been refurbished for about 20 years, to improve occupancy during quieter periods and increase income.
Mr Bryan said: “It seems completely wrong and a missed opportunity not to pump some money into the site and improve the buildings and make a go of it.”
The planning inspector is expected to give her decision in about six weeks.