THE Youth Hostel Association has unveiled plans to expand its network of places to stay across Yorkshire.

Richmond and Grassington, in the Yorkshire Dales, have been identified as possible sites for new hostels.

Others could be established in Goathland, Staithes, Harrogate, Ripon and Holmfirth under a partnership initiative known as YHA Enterprise.

However, the situation at Aysgarth, where the hostel is under threat of closure unless money for a £500,000 upgrade can be found, remains unchanged.

The Aysgarth hostel was one of ten listed for closure in the wake of the financial devastation caused by the foot-and-mouth crisis.

However, the YHA is aiming to increase the number of its overnight guests in the region by about 50 per cent.

As well as identifying Richmond and Grassington as potential sites, the charity is also launching the YHA Enterprise initiative to create bunkhouses, camping barns and guesthouses, as well as backpacker hostels aimed at young international travellers.

It will involve joint ventures with private, public and voluntary sector partners, which would own and, in many cases, run the new accommodation.

For an annual flat fee and an agreed percentage of annual income, the YHA intends to provide marketing and booking services for each centre, which will also display the green YHA logo.

Regional manager Simon Ainley said: "YHA's network needs to grow and there are a number of locations in Yorkshire that offer opportunities to develop new accommodation, either operated directly by YHA or by others on our behalf.

"YHA Enterprise offers considerable scope for us to work with partners, including other accommodation providers.

"There are real opportunities for farm diversification and to redevelop redundant buildings, as well as regeneration possibilities for communities across the region.

"We want to bring more visitors to Yorkshire to experience and enjoy what the region has to offer. We are aiming to increase the number of annual overnight stays at YHA accommodation here by 83,000 within five years."