LEGAL action has been started to recover the £50,000 allegedly owed to taxpayers by the Torquay seafront balloon operators, it was claimed today.
Campaigners have been urging Torbay Council for months to recover the money after the balloon venture on Torre Abbey gardens collapsed.
A claim operator Lindstrand had allegedly not paid any rent since 2009 due to a legal dispute between them and the council arose after a Freedom of Information request by two residents.
Questions are again to be raised at next week's full council meeting — as they were at a council meeting last October.
Ward councillor Jenny Faulkner said: "I understand it is in the hands of lawyers and on its way to court unless the two sides can come to some sort of agreement. It is Torbay Council's insurers which is taking them to court. We have also been told their lease expressly states Lindstrand are not supposed to hold back rent.
"That's something we were always questioning, but we have always been told by the council they couldn't talk about it because it was going to legal. We were told the issue had gone to legal a year ago.
"I will still be asking questions at the council meeting on Thursday next week. I am pleased as I really want to see an end to this and put the matter to rest and getting it looking nice down there. The way it was dealt with still leaves many questions to be asked."
Fellow ward councillor Darren Cowell said: "If legal action is finally being taken that is fantastic news. Hopefully, we are entering the final stages of this very sorry saga and we can get the land back and the community can decide what they want to do with it in future. At the moment it is looking a complete eyesore."
A Torbay Council spokesman said: "There continues to be communication between the respective parties solicitors in respect of the on-going dispute. The council is seeking for the matter to be concluded, with all outstanding monies being paid to the council."
The balloon was damaged in fierce storms January 2012 and never flew again. A spokesman for the balloon operators was unable to comment.