THE operator of Cotswold Country Park and Beach has said he handed back the controversial lease to the Cotswold Water Park Society because of disputes over boundaries and rights of access issues.

Max Thomas, of Watermark, said he was originally approached by CWPS to take over the park in 2007.

But he said the deal had not been what he had been led to believe.

The deal saw the Millennium Building and other assets sold to Watermark for £405,000 with an annual £70,000 rent agreement.

Under the agreement, Watermark could walk away from the lease within the first five years with CWPS having two choices: repay the money to Watermark, or allowing the company to operate at the park for free until it had recouped its investment.

Mr Thomas added that the company had invested a further £300,000 to improve the site. However, there had never been any intention to develop the land for holiday cottages he added.

"We were led to believe the visitor numbers were higher than they in fact were," he said. "There were also boundary, access and competition issues which caused us a great deal of aggravation.

"There was never any intention to build here. We simply wanted to create a family-friendly facility for local people and holiday-makers to enjoy.

"The three principal developers of the Water Park have and are investing around half a billion pounds into the local economy, which has contributed significantly to the revitalisation and commercial success of Cirencester town centre."

He added that the company continued to market the Cotswolds as a destination and brought a lot of tourism as well as jobs to the area.

Opponents to the lease deal this week called for a full inquiry to find out who had authorised the deal.

Cllr Esmond Jenkins said emails which revealed that Gloucestershire County Council's own legal team raised concerns over the deal, referred to "political pressure" and "bish boshing" from senior officers to push the deal through needed investigating.

"The performance of GCC in this matter deserves the contempt of the Gloucestershire taxpayer," he said.

"The public deserves better. They deserve to know who on earth signed this deal."

Peter Bungard, chief executive of GCC said he had been in correspondence with Cllr Jenkins for two years, over the issue.

"The granting of this lease has been investigated by our own audit committee as well as the district audit and we have remained entirely transparent on how it was handled."