CIRENCESTER residents have reacted angrily to revelations that the town council cannot afford to pull out of controversial plans for a £1.4m Market Place scheme.

Last week’s Standard reported that Cirencester Town Council resisted calls for a referendum on the project because it could not afford for the public to vote against it.

CTC’s chief executive officer Andrew Tubb told the council at last month’s meeting that a £60,000 grant would need to be paid back if the scheme was scrapped now, which would put the council in a "seriously dangerous financial position."

However, Mr Tubb has since admitted the council is yet to receive the £60,000 funding from a local trust, but was banking on it to cover council money already spent on design and planning.

He said: “We are expecting a cheque within this financial year.”

He accepted that his previous statement to councillors may appear to have been misleading but was “mentioned in the context of real financial challenges ahead for the council.”

Readers have reacted angrily to the situation.

Priory Close resident Roger Onslow said: "It is totally outrageous that this situation has been allowed to develop. They need to do what should have been done at the outset: consult the public."

Thomas Silver, of Chesterton Park, agreed. "They would rather spend a further million pounds and more to continue their scheme, than have the courage to put a hold on the plan and not throw good money after bad," he said.

Commenting online, ‘Union Man’ gave his support for a referendum.

"It is an outrage to go ahead with a proposal the majority of people don’t want just because some grants have to be repaid if the proposal doesn’t happen."

Mr Tubb told the Standard that a new Market Place was something that residents and politicians have wanted for more than 20 years.

“There’s always been support for the scheme and for change, which is why we’ve taken the lead on it,” he said.

He added that once planning permission was granted, the council would have a five-year window to find funding for the estimated £1.4m project.

An online poll by the Standard on a Market Place referendum found 60 per cent of readers were in favour of it.

CTC’s chief executive Andrew Tubb said the town council would not call a referendum because it could cost around £12,000 and was unlikely to be democratic.

“If only five per cent of the electorate turned out and said no, is that democratic or is that a real gauge of what people think? It’s just that people who don’t like the scheme came out and voted,” he said.

“What is the value and benefit of that? What judgement does the town council make based on that information?”

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