PROGRESS on a £18.8m leisure centre and other unnamed projects have been halted over worries about funding, it can be revealed.

Just over a year ago, Vale of White Horse District Council asked for people’s views on what they wanted to see in the new leisure centre planned for Wantage and Grove.

But emails dated September 18 confirm work has been ‘temporarily paused’ on the leisure centre - due to open in 2020 - along with other key schemes.

And council emails asked for the information not to be made public due to 'stakeholder' interests.

The council chose not to say which other projects have been paused in a ‘purely precautionary measure’ over concerns about funding from the Government.

Lib Dem district and county councillor for Grove and Wantage, Jenny Hannaby, said she was perplexed by leisure centre work stopping and why it had not yet been made public.

An email from the council seen by the Herald Series and the Oxford Mail said it needs more certainty over the Government's New Homes Bonus (NHB), which it is worried could provide it ‘with significantly less funding’ than it had originally hoped.

Vale council is expected to receive £27.7m through the NHB over the next five years. But the Government released a consultation paper on its future, with the possibility that it could be less generous, in July.

Mrs Hannaby said: “The officers have given their opinion that they should delay any spending because the Government is looking at the New Homes Bonus and whether they cut that, which seems likely.

"Why that should stop the leisure centre going is something I haven’t got my head around.”

She added: “The council is trying to keep it confidential and my question is: why keep it confidential? If that is what they’re going to do, then obviously the communities have had input into what they would like in the leisure centre and they have a right to know.”

In September 2017, Vale council asked for residents’ views on how they wanted the leisure centre to look in the future as part of a consultation and had hoped to open it in 2020.

It provisionally included a 25m six-lane community swimming pool, a learner pool with a moveable floor and a sports hall.

Mrs Hannaby added: “We need to understand what actually is going to happen. Is it going to go ahead, not going to go ahead? It’s not clear.”

In the secret email, the Vale’s leisure projects officer Ben Border wrote last month: “We’ve taken a decision to temporarily pause our work on the new leisure centre for Wantage and Grove.”

“The decision to pause this and other projects at the district council is a purely precautionary measure - one of the council’s key funding streams for projects like this is currently under review by the government.”

He added: “We’d be very grateful if you were able to keep this confidential... The council has a number of stakeholders this precautionary measure affects, and we feel it’s fair that they hear about it from us.”

The council’s webpage for the leisure centre project was last updated in May. It notes that it has ‘developed and progressed the design’ for the leisure centre.

Earlier this week, a Vale spokeswoman said: “We’ve taken a precautionary measure to ensure the council’s long-term finances are not affected by possible changes to the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme.

“We’ve temporarily paused some projects that rely on capital spending. We’ll provide an update on these projects once there is more certainty on the Government’s funding plans for areas affected by new housing.

“This won’t affect the council’s day-to-day services and the council is in a healthy financial position. This is just a common-sense, prudent measure to ensure the council remains in a healthy financial position in the long term.”