THE first customers could stay in a £16 million hotel built at taxpayers’ expense by the summer of 2021.

Conservative-led Taunton Deane Borough Council intends to go ahead with the project, leasing the premises to a leading hotel chain, rumoured to be Hilton.

The authority paused its proposals to hold a public consultation after several businesses and opposition councillors criticised the scheme.

A report to next Tuesday’s full council meeting will hear recommendations to “continue with the Firepool hotel” on the former livestock market site, which has been vacant for almost 11 years.

The council, which would borrow the money, would maintain ownership of the hotel, raking in rent from the hotel chain.

The consultation attracted 35 responses and one letter, with 57 per cent against the project and 37 per cent supportive.

The report says: “There’s support for the principle of council investment to support the town and to generate income to support essential services.”

Supporters say the hotel will bring economic and environmental benefits and a new quality hotel is needed in town.

Opponents say it is a high risk scheme, Firepool needs further development before a hotel and the project should be funded by the private sector.