PLANS are beginning to take shape for two new car parks and an all-weather 3G football pitch in Shaftesbury, but costings behind the £450,000 scheme have received criticism from councillors.

As previously reported, Shaftesbury Town Council threw its support behind the introduction of long-term parking near Tesco in Coppice Street, and a second permit holder car park on the nearby football club site.

As part of an interconnected project, 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.

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

Heard during the latest extraordinary full council meeting on December 8 however, Councillor Karen Tippins said she had “great doubts” over the feasibility of the proposal, and it was “putting an awful lot of money into quite a relatively small group”.

She suggested that the council instead sources a grant application expert, using a budget of up to £10,000, to apply for grant funding from sport bodies, rather than going ahead with the proposed loan.

She said: “Going [down] the grant route is a low-risk option and the town council should not be taking on this type of financial risk at all."

Cllr Tippins added that this kind of money should be used for other projects like the resurfacing of Park Walk, and the costings of the scheme “are not correct”.

She said: “I doubt a Public Works loan would be assigned to this project, there are too many issues surrounding it. I’m very doubtful regarding the actual legalities of what we’re doing here.”

Financial concerns were also raised by Cllrs John Lewer and Peter Yeo.

Cllr Lewer feared the town council might be “overstretching itself”with such costs, and Cllr Yeo said the scheme was “fundamentally unsound” as the money in question needs to benefit more people within Shaftesbury.

Cllr Yeo added the venture could be deemed "favouritism" towards one organisation, and the council had still not been shown the football club's accounts, making it unknown if it could afford the project.

Cllr Tippins later put forward a motion suggesting the council restarts the project, due to changes in finances and to reassess the viability of 'car park two', but this was not supported.

The project has now taken one step forward after overriding support from other council members, with a timeline and a business case and feasibility study approved, and the authority will now formally apply to the Secretary of State for borrowing the necessary funds.

Profit from ‘car park one’ would be channelled back into community groups in the town, while ‘car park two’’s permit scheme is believed to make enough money to pay off the government loan.

Cllr Alex Chase said a consultation on the plans had received “overwhelmingly positive reviews”, and labelled the scheme as a “great, financially sound” idea that “will make its money back”.

Cllr Piers Brown added: “[This ia a] fantastic project built on fiscally conservative principles. It is going to be reasonably self-funding and by paying it back over 30 years we can ensure that cash flow is managed appropriately.”