St Neots town centre is being “dragged down” by the state of the dilapidated Old Falcon Hotel in Market Square, a councillor has said.

Councillor Barry Chapman, leader of the independent group on Huntingdonshire District Council, was angry after being told that his bid to get the council to make a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the building had to be put off.

A meeting of the full council heard that the building's owner had appealed against the authority's rejection of plans for flats and shops which could be prejudiced if the debate went ahead.

Cllr Chapman said: "I am very frustrated it didn't go ahead. The people of St Neots deserve better, I am not going to let it go."

He had launched a motion calling on the council to make a CPO on the Falcon Hotel as the authority responsible for both planning and the town's economic development.

Cllr Chapman told the meeting that the hotel had been empty for 12 years and that something had to be done with it because it occupied a key position and was central to the economic wellbeing of the town.

He said the state of the building had a knock-on effect on business, employment and tourism.

"The developer really should be called to account for dragging our town down," he said. "It really is the centre of St Neots."

Cllr Chapman said an online petition calling for the council to compulsorily purchase the building had raised more than 600 signatures in a week and that he intended to present it to the appeal inspector.

He told The Hunts Post that when he arrived at the meeting he had been asked not to push the motion because it could compromise the planning appeal.

But he said the appeal had been known about for three weeks and he had not been stopped from putting the motion on the agenda.

Cllr Chapman said proposals for the site would affect the town's best views from across the Market Square and from the riverside park opposite.

Cllr Chapman said the plan contained too many residential units at the price of retail outlets and he would like to see the main building revert to being a hotel.