SPIRALLING costs and the inability of the Vale Council to purchase vital stretches of land on the foreshore mean the future of the Penarth Headland Link project is still hanging in the balance.

The Vale Council cabinet met last week to discuss the walkway - intended to provide a pedestrian/cycle link between Penarth Esplanade and Cardiff Bay.

According to a report put before cabinet, the Vale council has been unable to reduce the target cost for the scheme, which has rocketed to £21.5 million.

The authority has been left with an £8 million shortfall as the budget identified in its capital programme was £13.5 million comprising of £7.5 million of funding from the Welsh Assembly Government, £5 million from the Vale council and £1 million from the Cardiff Harbour Authority.

Neil Moore, deputy leader of the Vale Council, said: "I am neither optimistic or pessimistic about its chances of going ahead.

"Mismanagement of the project by the previous administration has made it very difficult to achieve. I doubt there was ever the political will to build it.

"They should have got their act together seven years ago. Because they didn't, costs have escalated.

"We must make a decision soon," he added.

"But it is a matter for full council."

The Vale Council has been urged to make a final decision on the project by Andrew Davies, Welsh Assembly Government minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Network, who has put on hold any further funding from the Welsh Assembly Grant of £7.5 million - around £1 million of which has already been spent on feasibility studies.

The Vale Council has also failed to purchase two vital pieces of foreshore land in private ownership.

Last March the authority, then under Tory leadership, agreed to start compulsory purchase order proceedings on the land.

This can take a number of years and officers fear any further delay will make the project even more expensive.

Vale Council officers also say that council land, yet to be identified, would have to be sold off to bridge the financial shortfall.

The Tory-led council planned to abandon the project last year but it was saved by a public campaign led by Cllr Lis Burnett.

She said: "All avenues are still being explored and I remain hopeful."

Plaid Cymru Assembly candidate, Jason Toby said: "The key factor is that the last Conservative Cabinet failed to buy all the necessary land required for the walkway.

"The people of Penarth have been badly let down. The Vale council must now re-double its efforts to build a footbridge across the River Ely for cyclists and pedestrians."