PLANS for two new car parks and an all-weather 3G football pitch in Shaftesbury could solve a “decades” long parking shortage and benefit young people, after they were given the green light by council members earlier this week.

There are concerns however about the huge costs involved.

At an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night the town council gave its support to introducing long-term parking near Tesco in Coppice Street, and a second car park would be available for permit holders on the nearby football club site, in total creating more than 70 new spaces for the town.

It was also approved that a 30-year £350,000 loan would be underwritten by the council to back plans to develop a 3G facility at Shaftesbury Football Club (FC).

A further £100,000 will also be granted to the football club’s project from the council’s general reserves account.

Councillor Alex Chase said this was the “single biggest step” to resolving the town’s parking shortage, which has been a problem “for decades”, and the transformation of the pitch would “bring all ages and parts of Shaftesbury together”.

He added: “I am confident we can achieve all that we have set out to do within a comfortable budget and at no long-term cost to the taxpayer.”

The wellbeing officer for Shaftesbury FC Donna Lane said at the meeting, which was attended virtually by more than 60 people, that around 300 people access the pitch on a weekly basis, and a 3G surface would provide “a suitable training facility all year round”.

She urged council members to consider the social and emotional benefits of the project rather than the financial implications, adding: “It will enable us to get to more children within our community, to reach wider and to offer more provision every day of every week of the year and that is something we currently don’t have.”

Supporting the scheme, Cllr Piers Brown said the project was "a giant leap in making improvements for this community".

Despite this, some councillors raised concerns regarding the costings behind the pitch, with Cllr John Lewer fearing the finances “leave a potential risk to the town for 30 years”.

Cllr Lewer continued: “Nobody is doubting the physical benefits and emotional benefits that this pitch can give but I don’t believe it is up to the town council to put its neck out to that extent to facilitate it.

"The speed of which this has been pushed through gives the impression it is not 100 per cent thought out and is a bit of a panic measure because things have gone pear-shaped elsewhere, such as St Mary’s [school].

"I understand the problems the football club is going through but I don’t think it’s up to us to go to the extreme lengths of this proposal in order to rescue them.”

Cllr Lewer added the large sum could be deemed as favouritism towards Shaftesbury FC, as other clubs and projects were not receiving similar financial backing.

Cllr Karen Tippins also had concerns about the cost. She said: “[This is a] huge undertaking to ask a town council to take on this type of liability, basically if there is any form of default it will wipe out the council’s general reserve. I know there has been quite a lot of emotive statements made but we’re here to make responsible decisions on finances for the tax payer.

“The finances do not stack up.”

She added that a football pitch in Wincombe Lane should have been included in the project proposal, and queried whether the club had tried other sources of funding including the Lottery Community Fund.

This echoed the views of Cllr Peter Yeo earlier in the meeting, who said it was "outrageous" the council had not been shown the football club's accounts, making it unknown if it could afford the project.

He added that it was "totally wrong" that the three proposals were "lumped together" under one council vote.

In response Cllr Brown said the plans were still at a conceptual stage, and additional funding streams will be looked into “when the time is right”.

Regarding car parking, Cllr Yeo said that parking was only an issue for the town following the loss of the cattle market and the High Street's current pedestrianisation.

The three connected projects were backed by a majority of members, and the council will now seek the approval of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to apply for a public works loan to support the football club redevelopment costs.