PLANS to demolish the Wessex Hotel and build a new 100-room hotel and 88 flats have been deferred.

Members of Bournemouth's planning board said council officers should negotiate with the applicant Inland Homes for extra hotel beds and community facilities.

The application has sparked opposition from users of the existing hotel's ballroom, however members were advised that creating a similarly-sized ballroom within the new art deco-style hotel could not be made a condition of approval.

Among three dancers to address the meeting on Monday was Robert Charlwood, who travels from Guildford to use the hotel's sprung maplewood ballroom.

"This is a unique tourist and cultural facility," he said.

"It is used throughout the year by the local community and by tourists from across the country and abroad."

In a report to the board recommending approval of the scheme, planning officers had outlined several other hotels advertising ballrooms in the area, however Mr Charlwood, echoing several of the 43 letters of objection, said these facilities were "in no way comparable" to the Wessex.

Ward councillor Rae Stollard also urged against the loss of the ballroom. She said: "I think we should be thinking far more about the health of our community, and I would like you to think about that."

Greg Cooper, of Inland Homes, said the goal of the development was to restore the original Victorian layout of the site, with three buildings in a garden setting and parking relegated to a 188 space underground garage.

His colleague, Mark Gilpin, said the Wessex was not viable in its current form and barely paid for its costs.

However, Andrew Emery of Bournemouth Tourism, said the net loss of nine hotel rooms should be resisted. "In our experience, operators are looking for developments of 120 rooms or more," he said.

Senior planning officer Simon Gould advised the board that it was up to the hotel operators whether or not they operated a ballroom, and the existing facility "could be shut down tomorrow if they wish".

But councillors backed a move to defer making a decision on the application until the next meeting.