Youth hostels could be sold to pay for charity's mounting debts

The association would like to sell loss-making hostels in order to refurbish others, and open new larger centres in major cities.

But the plan has drawn criticism from some members who fear that by concentrating on larger urban hostels, the association will stray from its original ideals.

The YHA was founded in 1930 to help young people, especially those from poor backgrounds, to build "a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside."

It runs 227 hostels throughout England and Wales, but 39 of those make a loss, and dozens more are on the borderline.

Roger Clarke, the YHA's chief executive said: "Our main concern now is that the YHA becomes more secure financially and to do that it needs to adapt to a changing environment in the way people spend their leisure time and what they expect from the accommodation. We need to provide good quality accommodation in the right location."

Although business has improved in recent years, the association is still running at a loss and pays £1.6m interest charges on its debt.

Some YHA staff fear the charity is losing sight of its mission. "For many young people from the city, staying in a hostel is their first experience of the countryside," said one hostel manager.

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