Plans to build a £2.5 million leisure and community centre in a Warwickshire village have been scrapped because of the credit crunch.
Stratford District Council has axed the Dene Valley Centre in Wellesbourne, which has been seven years in the pipeline, saying that in the current economic climate it would “not be prudent” to continue.
It is also carrying out a review of its other big capital projects with a view to scrapping some of them.
Wellesbourne Parish Council is fuming over the decision, saying it is seven years’ work and £200,000 of taxpayers’ money down the drain.
The district council had pledged to give the parish council a £2.5 million grant towards Dene Valley. It was proposed to have sports facilities, a community hall, meeting rooms, a gym and possibly in the future, a swimming pool.
But during a meeting of the Cabinet last week it was decided to recommend to the full meeting of the Conservative-controlled council to withdraw the grant.
Parish council project officer Elaine Hughes said everyone in the village was “extremely angry” at the decision.
“Over seven years’ work and in excess of £200,000 parish investment were wiped out in a meeting lasting less than 12 minutes,” she said.
Mrs Hughes said the leisure centre was long-awaited because Wellesbourne had no sporting facilities of its own, with the 6,000-plus residents having to travel the six miles to Stratford-upon-Avon.
“It would not just be for Wellesbourne, all the outlying villages such as Loxley and Charlecote would also benefit from it,” she said.
“The people of Wellesbourne are reeling from the shock decision and we’re all extremely angry.
“We have worked long and hard developing this project at the behest of the district council to ensure all risks have been addressed.
“They had just completed the tender process to appoint a commercial leisure contractor to run the centre when this news broke.”
She added: “The money has been earmarked for two years, in fact we thought it had been ring fenced.
“But now we’ve heard the council doesn’t want to release the cash because it cannot afford to lose the £137,000 it is getting in interest.”
Wellesbourne parish councillor and project chairman Roger Wright said: “If it is due to the economic climate then all capital projects should be halted pending such a review.
“It is not right or fair to single out Wellesbourne.
“Either the district’s accounts are in such a serious state that they have pulled the plug just to save money, or they are yet again turning their backs on this community.”
Coun Chris Williams, community services portfolio holder for Stratford District Council, said the project was first conceived seven years.
“Since that time a lot has happened - not least the current national and international economic crisis,” he said.
“Building costs have risen and continue to rise, businesses face an uncertain future with many experiencing a downturn in revenue - we are all facing an uncertain future.
“Now is not the time to commit this sort of capital, we have to be prudent.”
He said they were carrying out a review of all capital projects, with Wellesbourne being the first and he denied it was being singled out.
And he said Wellesbourne was partly to blame for the decision because the parish council had “procrastinated”.
“Five years ago we were ready to go ahead with the £2.5 million but at the last minute they changed their minds and put forward a much bigger £7 million scheme,” he said.
“We then spent four to five years working around the various issues, during which time Wellesbourne did not get its community project.”
Coun Williams said they had taken the decision to withdraw the grant because it was taxpayers’ money.
“We are not speculative in our investments, we are conservative, because it is public money we are dealing with,” he said.
“This is nothing to do with the Icelandic crisis other councils are facing as we do not have any money in banks in Iceland.
“But we still have to provide local services in these difficult times and our financial advisors deemed it too much of a risk to allocate the £2.5 million grant.”
He said losing the project would not be too much of a blow to Wellesbourne as it was quite close to Stratford, unlike other villages which were further away.