A FORMER Portland youth hostel is to be converted to flats for homeless families.

Hardy House in Castle Road will be converted into five flats after an area planning committee approved the changes.

The building, which sits in a large plot, is owned by Dorset Council and is a part of a group of substantial villas once linked to the naval harbour.

The flats will all be for “social, affordable or intermediate rent”, three of them 2-bed, two 1-bed, with a supporting document saying they will be used for homeless families, although councillors were told the consent does not tie the homes to only that use forever.

Six existing rooms will be converted to provide enough space, through internal changes, to the new flats.

Two flats are planned for the ground and first floor with the fifth flat on the second floor with only small changes proposed externally to the building, mainly the addition of a wheelchair-friendly ramp to the front door.

Dorset councillors were told that there was no likelihood of the building being required again for a youth hostel and that other properties on Portland now fulfilled that function.

Portland Town Council had asked that the flats only be offered to local people but the committee heard it would be impossible to make that legally binding.

Hardy House was built for the Admiralty’s Chief Civil Engineer at Portland and later became the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence Police, the Naval Provost and Works Department.

It was eventually bought by the former Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and leased to the Youth Hostel Association, opening in April 2001.

During 2020 the building was used for emergency Covid 19 accommodation and has been leased to the Lantern Trust to provide accommodation for homeless people.

Other changes, in addition to a new internal layout, are better insulation, a wheelchair access and improved fire safety measures.

Portland councillor Paul Kimber told the planning committee he supported the changes which were being welcomed in the area.