There was “no evidence” of high-level commitment from either of the proposed tenants for Workington’s multi-million stadium, according to the leader of Allerdale council.

Marion Fitzgerald made the comments as she faced questions over why the executive scrapped the ambitious plans put forward by the previous Labour administration.

The business case for the original project hinged on a lease agreement with Sellafield Ltd and the NHS, but Mrs Fitzgerald said that no paperwork had been signed – and that there were insufficient guarantees upon which to base such a “momentous decision”.

The Independent-led executive voted last month to look instead into the creation of a smaller scaled-back version of the project.

The move ended the town’s dreams of hosting the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and has left a question mark hanging over any future tenancy arrangement with the NHS and Sellafield Ltd.

But defending last month’s decision, Mrs Fitzgerald said: “We saw no evidence of high level of commitment from either of the potential tenants.

“What we saw really was expressions of interest and no more than that – certainly nothing sufficient in our view on which to base such a momentous decision.”

She said the original proposal “relied very heavily on a lot of variables all falling into place”.

Mrs Fitzgerald also revealed that executive members had been “very concerned” about the “burden to the council and consequently to the taxpayer”, an arrangement that would have seen the council taking on the role of guarantor if the financial projections did not pan out.

It also emerged during meeting of the full council that the potential for a 15-year break clause in any tenancy agreement had “troubled” executive members.

But Alan Smith, who was council leader when the original stadium plan was drawn up, demanded to see the specific business case upon which the executive had based its “flawed decision” to abandon a “fully worked up and self-financing” scheme.

Deputy leader Mark Jenkinson, who branded the stadium a “vanity project” when he was in opposition, also denied claims he had “scuppered” the stadium merely out of political spite.

“I’m not childish enough to come and sabotage projects just because they were made by the Labour Group,” he said.

Mr Smith challenged the new executive to debate the decision at full council but was told by officers that this was an “executive decision”.

Coun Heaslip, the previous portfolio-holder for environment, conceded that there “may have been nothing on paper” from the NHS and Sellafield.

He said: “But you only sign the head lease with the developer at the same time as you sign the sub leases with the NHS and Sellafield.

“All that would have taken place on the same day. And there is no way that the previous administration would have got into a deal to sign a ‘head lease’ without making sure the ‘sub leases’ were signed at the same time because that completes the package.”

The original plans included an 8,000-capacity community stadium, providing much-needed facilities to be shared by Workington Town and Workington Reds.