COUNCILLOR Andy Canning called for a public consultation before any decisions are made on the future of the scheme.

He said: “If the right way forward is found, putting some extra public money in would work, but it has to be a way forward that everyone agrees with.

“The council said that spending £16million on new offices would help kick start the building of new shops on Charles Street, and help create 600 new jobs. Well, the offices are nearly finished and there’s no sign of the shops.”

District councillors were briefed on the options in a closed meeting last week.

Coun Alistair Chisholm said the private meeting made a ‘mockery’ of the recommendations set out in a report by independent auditors KPMG earlier in the year.

In May the body recommended that the council ‘improve engagement with members and the public through more pro-active communication on the rationale for procedures’.

Coun Chisholm said: “We are talking about massive amounts of public money.

“Other than the option of doing nothing, I can’t see any of the other options could be achieved without looking at the investment of more public money, and that needs to go back to the public.

“It feels as though they are determined to forge ahead with the Charles Street scheme at any cost, just to save face. It is a fiasco”

The report said that because the site already has planning permission, and ‘the need to maintain certainty for the developers and the anchor tenants’, a public consultation was not considered to be appropriate.