BATS, listed buildings and public consultations have been blamed for a year delay experienced by the Chard Regeneration in just 12 months.

Last summer, then-leader Ric Pallister said South Somerset District Council planned to open a new leisure centre - also set to include a new swimming pool for the town - in the summer of 2020.

Cllr Pallister’s commitment to the two-year deadline came after members of the public reported mixed messages coming from council staff about the time it would take to deliver the scheme.

Now, SSDC officers have revised the estimated delivery of the project’s first phase to summer 2021.

A spokesman for the council said: “The provision of a leisure centre has always been an ambitious project to deliver on a challenging site with many considerations.

“The original statement was an aim which was set prior to full site investigations were completed and, more importantly, consultation on design considerations was had with statutory agencies such as Historic England and Natural England.

“While the ambition was set, it was always made clear the timetable is not wholly in the hands of the council as other agencies are involved, but we need to be ambitious and drive to deliver the project as soon as possible for the benefit of Chard.

“We updated the timetable at the last public consultation to reflect the more detailed investigations and planning that have taken place since the original ambition was set.”

Last October it was revealed that bats had been found in the development site but SSDC officers said the scheme had not been delayed as a result, and that “here is no reason that this cannot be factored into the scheme without compromising the delivery timeline”.

However, that has not been the case.

Commenting last week, the spokesman added: “Our consultation with the public was very extensive and this period was longer than originally planned because we wanted to make sure that we achieve a scheme that has the support of the communities with the right mix of facilities.

“The discovery of bats occupying some of the buildings has increased timescales as has the need to ensure that the proposals and designs protect and take account of the history of the site to the satisfaction of statutory agencies.

“Due to the listed buildings on site we have been unable to progress the demolition of the non-Listed buildings and the site enabling works until designs for the new buildings are complete and address the requirements of statutory agencies.

“In light of this, our revised aim is to now deliver the ambitious programme and see the new Leisure Centre open to the public in the summer of 2021.”

A full planning application for Regeneration’s first phase was submitted last week.

The council spokesman said: “This aim is still subject to meeting the requirements of other agencies but we will continue to do all we can to deliver the project at the earliest opportunity.”