Plans for an £800,000 artificial hockey pitch on a popular green space could collapse within weeks.
The shock admission came from South Somerset District Council assistant director Steve Joel during an inquiry on Tuesday looking at whether a footpath on Yeovil Recreation Ground should be moved to make way for the new sporting facility.
Mr Joel told the inquiry that the council would lose a £117,000 grant from the English Hockey Board towards the project if work did not start next month.
He said: “We would lose the money and the project could not go ahead unless the council took the decision to make up the shortfall from its own funds.”
The project, which already has planing permission, is opposed by members of residents’ action group Save Yeovil Rec, who are against building on the site.
In addition to the English Hockey Board grant, the artificial pitch is being funded by £476,000 from money given to the council as part of the planning process by housing developer Barratt Homes, which built Wyndham Park off Lyde Road.
More than £200,000 will come from council coffers.
Mr Joel also revealed that the council risked losing the £476,000 if the money is not spent by 2015.
He said the agreement was “very specific” to the project on the Rec and to spend it on other schemes would require the council to negotiate with the developer.
He said the money would be handed back to Barratt if it was not spent by 2015.
Planning inspector Roger Pritchard this week heard evidence from Save Yeovil Rec and the Open Spaces Society who oppose the footpath being diverted, and from the council which proposed the change.
He said he is likely to make a decision at some stage next week, but it could take a while for the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol to process the result – meaning the future of hockey pitch scheme could hang in the balance.
Residents battling the pitch proposals suffered a blow last year when a bid to get the Rec protected from development under “Town Green” status was rejected. This week the group revealed that it was considering challenging the decision by Somerset County Council’s regulation committee through the courts by seeking a judicial review.
Group spokesman Ashley Strelling said: “We will see how the council responds to the clear will of the public.
“If they continue to plough on despite this then we will have to consider further action in order to defend one of Yeovil’s last free green open spaces.”
The council had previously wanted to build a £28m sport complex on the Rec called the Sport Zone but the scheme was later abandoned after a huge public outcry.
The council still has ambitions for a “Sport Zone” and is looking at alternative sites.