PLANS to demolish most of a landmark Hampshire hotel and replace it with almost 80 homes have received a boost.

A conversation expert employed by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) is supporting proposals to redevelop the Lyndhurst Park Hotel, which has stood empty since it closed in 2014.

Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories and was also one of Britain's leading spiritualists, helped redesign the hotel in 1912.

Hoburne Development has vowed to retain the historic elements of the building if its application to transform the site is approved by the NPA.

The pledge has failed to satisfy the Victorian Society and other critics, including the Spiritualists' National Union and the Ancient Monuments Society.

But one of the consultees, the NPA's senior building design and conservation officer, Sally Knott, is backing the proposals.

Her submission says: "The original building dates from the early 1800s and was built as a private country house known as Glasshayes, but was extended in Victorian times and remodelled by Conan Doyle.

"The early parts of the 20th century saw the use of castellated parapets and an octagonal tower to the rear but later additions are bland."

Ms Knott says the most historic part of the building will be retained and converted into seven apartments if the scheme is given the go-ahead.

She adds: "In addition the large modern canopy and other modern additions will be removed in order to better reveal the historic architecture and other features such as the turrets and castellations.

"The architects have responded to our advice in pre-application discussions and created a scheme which we consider will work for this important location in the village."

Describing the building as derelict Ms Knott adds: "It is in poor condition, with a section to the rear having partially collapsed at the beginning of 2020. Parts of the interiors of the historic wing are considered to be dangerous including the staircase."

Plans to redevelop the site have come under fire from the Ancient Monuments Society.

Its letter to the NPA says: "The proposal seeks to not only demolish the later extensions to the hotel but also about a third of the historic Conan Doyle building. The local plan explicitly states the historic portion should be retained and restored.”

But several Lyndhurst residents have voiced support for the Hoburne scheme, saying it would remove an eyesore and enhance the entrance to the village.

Conan Doyle lived at nearby Brook and is buried at All Saints Church, Minstead.