VALE OF GLAMORGAN council officials were this week due to hold a crisis meeting to discuss the implications of paying back a £7.5 million grant to the Welsh Assembly Government.

WAG officials are seeking repayment after a government report said the cost of the failed Headland Link project had reached £21.5m, with an £8m shortfall.

The Vale council had been trying for more than seven years to provide a pedestrian and cycle route from Penarth promenade, around the base of the Penarth Headland, to the southern end of the Cardiff Bay Barrage.

But the plans were shelved last year after costs spiralled.

The WAG report said: "In accordance with the terms of the original grant, if the project does not go ahead any grant paid by the Assembly Government to the council is repayable."

Vale of Glamorgan Council Leader Cllr Margaret Alexander said: "Council officers are currently considering the details of the report and will shortly be meeting with colleagues in the Assembly.

"A report on the implications of the Assembly decision will be discussed by Cabinet at their next meeting."

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Max Wallis, is now calling for council officials to publicly explain why the project failed - and why so much money was spent in the process.

He said: "How did the council pay £2 million to consultants before work even started?

"On whose advice did they tell us in March 2006 it would cost "only" £12 million - two months before the price jumped to about £20 million?

"Friends of the Earth call on the Council to hold an inquiry into the abortive project led by highly-paid consultants who, with officers, blocked the environment-friendly alternative.

"And to report publicly on the lessons learned."

Plaid AM Chris Franks added: "Plaid Assembly Member Chris Franks said: "With the total costs of around £20 million clearly the scheme was unsustainable.

"What was the last council thinking about when they allowed costs to run wild?

"This latest blow is in danger of seriously undermining the financial stability of the council."