CIVIC planners have given the green light for a Bournemouth hotel to be turned into flats, despite opposition from the town’s tourism boss.

The council’s head of tourism Mark Smith insisted that the Lea Hurst Hotel in Frances Road was profitable, with the right investment. He added: “We are absolutely convinced that this is a viable business.”

But ward councillor, chartered accountant Michael Filer, told planning board members that he disagreed, having studied the hotel’s trading figures for the past five years.

He added: “Last month’s bank statement shows that the owners put £3,000 into the hotel to keep their heads above water.”

Senior planning officer Simon Gould recommended that the conversion of the Boscombe hotel into three one-bedroom flats and six studio flats was rejected.

He added: “The main consideration is the change of use from tourist accommodation to residential accommodation in terms of land use.”

But Penny King, managing director of the applicants’ agent Planning Precision Limited, said: “The owners are elderly and relying on a naval pension to cover their outgoings.

“They don’t employ any staff and want to retire.

“The hotel was quiet, even during the air show.”

Cllr Roger West sympathised with the hotel owners.

He said: “I think it would be completely out of order for us to expect this man and his wife to make a business like this pay. The planning policy is wrong.”

Cllr Malcolm Davies shared his sentiments, adding: “I want to see Bournemouth thrive. How on earth could you sell a business with those figures?”

Chairman David Kelsey moved that approval should be granted, subjected to conditions, but added: “This does not give carte blanche to all hotel owners to come in with applications. We treat each case on its merits.”

The move was carried with only Cllr Beryl Baxter voting against.

Speaking after the meeting, the applicant Michael Waister said: “I’m delighted with the decision; it’s been a big worry and we just want to enjoy our retirement.”