SALISBURY’S youth hostel will not be turned into retirement homes, a planning inspector ruled on Friday.

A planning inquiry was held at Salisbury City Hall on July 23 after developer Genepi Property appealed against Wiltshire Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the 70-bed hostel on Milford Hill.

Genepi wanted to convert Milford Hill House into four two-bedroom apartments and build 11 new homes in the grounds, but the council’s planning department said the low-cost tourist accommodation is much needed in the city.

David Andrews, from VisitWiltshire, told the inquiry there is a “significant lack” of youth-related accommodation.

He said: “There is clear evidence that there is a strong demand for hostel accommodation and other forms of youth accommodation.”

The inquiry also heard the hostel, which is due to close on December 31, is almost at full capacity during the summer months, often with campers outside too. But the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), which owns the building, said it is no longer viable and does not provide the service people want.

Planning inspector Sukie Tamplin upheld the council’s decision to refuse permission.

She said: “I accept that the proposed development would preserve and enhance the designated heritage assets and would provide 15 dwellings in a sustainable location. I also acknowledge that the submitted unilateral undertaking would help to facilitate the provision of affordable housing.

“But neither these nor any other benefits claimed, including improvements to biodiversity in the garden setting, outweigh the serious loss of tourist accommodation for the budget sector and in a climate of existing and projected need there is no justification to set aside adopted policy.”

Hayley Stevens, head of estates for YHA, said: “We are disappointed with the outcome. We will review it and take any decision that best serves our organisation.”