A COMMUNITY group which hopes to restore a historically important building has been accused of 'scamming' the public.

Wellington town councillor John Thorne said the Wellington Mills Community Interest Group is 'misleading' the public into thinking anything can be achieved.

The Wellington Mills CIC was set up early in 2018 to try regenerate mill buildings at Tonedale.

The group applied for a £950 grant towards the 'ongoing activity' of the group.

The initial consultation day saw more than 300 people voice their views and ideas, and around 100 attended the feedback event.

But one councillor was quick to the object the grant, stating it could be seen as 'a scam'.

Cllr John Thorne said: "I don't support this.

"While we all agree with the vision, there is nothing this group can do to bring it about.

"They have chosen not to engage with Wellington Town Council, until they want money.

"Some people will see it as some sort of scam, thinking it can happen.

"They have no ownership and no money, most of it is match-funding.

"I think the public is being misled, because they can't achieve what they want to achieve.

"If Historic England and Taunton Deane Borough Council can't do anything, this CIC won't be able to.

"So I don't think we should be giving money to it."

Cllr Marcus Barr said he had similar qualms to Cllr Thorne, and likened the project to making a decision on someone else's house, where the council has 'no say so'.

Despite their concerns, the rest of the council was keen to come to the group's defence, saying any effort to regenerate the buildings should be supported.

Cllr Mark Lithgow said: "It' a nationally recognised, important, building, which is slowly deteriorating.

"The CIC is raising the issue, I haven't seen anywhere near as much publicity from any other body.

"No they don't own the building, but neither does Taunton Deane.

"The company that does is very shady, and no one knows who is behind it."

The councillors decided to approve the grant to the CIC group.

Cllr Ross Henley added calling the group a 'scam' was an 'unfortunate' choice of words.

But the group says it has always been clear it does not own the building, and instead are trying to inspire change.

Following the meeting, Nicky Saunter, one of the directors of the CIC group, said:"The Wellington Mills CIC has always been clear and upfront about the fact we don't own the site and have very limited resources. We describe our role as being a catalyst for change, to provide a shared vision, and perhaps some hope for a better Tonedale.

"We are also becoming a way for the community to express their opinion through our consultation meetings. These public meetings have been well attended, positive and realistic.

"Local people know what we are up against and have told us they are grateful someone is trying to do something positive."