NEARLY £2m has been spent on an ambitious ecoproject which has been shelved, it was revealed yesterday.

A Freedom of Information request has shown that £1,922,246 was pumped into plans for Eastgate Renewable Energy Village, at Stanhope, County Durham, which fell victim to grant cuts in Chancellor George Osbourne’s comprehensive spending review.

The Task Force, comprising regional development agency One North East, Durham County Council and former landowner Lafarge, says representatives are in talks with private firms that could see the development come to fruition – but the process could take 15 years.

The plans, dubbed eco- Disney, were expected to create 350 jobs and were seen as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse Weardale’s economic decline.

Councillor John Shuttleworth, who represents Weardale on Durham County Council, said: “I think anyone who can spend £2m and not follow through is unreasonable.

“The Task Force needs to provide Weardale with those jobs.

“It is eight years later and we have spent this amount of cash and there is still not one job.”

Durham County Council put up £57,000 of the cost to date with the rest coming from the now-disbanded Wear Valley District Council, European funding, the Government and the Task Force. The total includes about £100,000 paid to media consultant Robson Brown, and about £420,000 paid to a drilling company to check for a geothermal hot water spring.

The project was left up in the air after a £1m grant from the soon-to-bedefunct One North East was axed.

Sarah Robson, head of the county council’s economic development, said that the overall ambitions for the site had not changed.

Stanhope parish councillor Chris Rowell said: “£2m is a huge amount of money in terms of Weardale and we haven’t seen £2m of benefit – we haven’t seen a single pound.

“Local families have been forced to move away while fat cats in quangos such as One North East have earned huge salaries.

“The Task Force claims to have had success in attracting national and regional support for the project, but is unable to name a single private sector investor.”

One North East chief executive, Alan Clarke, said the cash spent would not go to waste.

He said: “The challenge has always been to create sustainable new business, jobs and opportunities in a rural area which offers its own unique planning, transport and economic development challenges.

“All of these investigative studies and reports will remain with Lafarge and the council for future use and reference.”