A CARE worker who invested a huge inheritance in a Bournemouth hotel – and illegally turned it into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) when the business failed – has been ordered to pay out tens of thousands of pounds.

Stuart Ridley bought the Croydon Private Hotel in St Michael's Road in October 2013, spending £70,000 on refurbishing the run-down building. However, it quickly became obvious that the business wasn't viable, and the following year, Ridley put the hotel back on the market.

It failed to attract a buyer and September 2015, Ridley was granted a licence to run it as an HMO. The licence protects residents and does not guarantee planning permission will be granted for such a change of use.

When Ridley applied for planning permission six months later, it was rejected, and an appeal against the council's decision was thrown out.

However, Ridley, 55, continued to let eight rooms and one self-contained flat to ten tenants. Ridley, a care worker of more than 30 years who had to stop working due to his own ill-health, had been able to buy the hotel after being left a considerable inheritance by a relative.

On Friday, he appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court to admit failing to comply with a council enforcement notice.

Athu Crorie, prosecuting for the council, said the enforcement notice, which ordered the defendant to stop using the site as an HMO, came into force on October 12 2017. Ridley took on a new tenant two weeks before that date.

"On June 1 2018, planning enforcement officers visited again, not on a pre-arranged visit, and found the property was still being used an an HMO," Mr Crorie said.

"That results in a summons." At that point, Ridley had known he was not able to use the building as an HMO for some eight months, the court heard.

The benefit figures identified through Ridley's use of the hotel is some £52,475. Ridley, who also owns three flats, two of which are rented out, has almost £1.2 million available to him, it was heard.

However, the defendant's counsel Tim Moores said he is "asset rich and cash poor".

"The two flats are let out and produce a modest income," Mr Moores said.

"There is no ready cash."

The council rejected Ridley's application to turn the hotel into an HMO because of issues with crime and anti-social behaviour in Bournemouth's West Cliff, rather than over any specific concerns with the property, it was heard.

"He hadn't created a flophouse. This was a quality conversion," Mr Moores said.

Judge Jonathan Fuller QC accepted Ridley, of Studland Road, Alum Chine, hadn't shown a "flagrant disregard from the outset" for planning rules.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the defendant must pay back the £52,475 benefit made from the HMO, or face six months imprisonment in default. He must also pay a £7,000 fine and the full protection costs of £3,281.59.