Ards Football Club's plans to return to Newtownards have been dealt a potentially fatal blow after Ards Borough Council withdrew their offer to lease land to the homeless club.
In September 2013 the Council approved plans to lease a plot of land on the Portaferry Road known as The Floodgates to the town's football club, but after 15 months of negotiations the deal collapsed.
Ards were expected to be one of the frontrunners for the second tranche of government stadium funding that is expected to made available later this year, but the Council's decision means the club can now not apply for grants.
The Council have claimed that Ards scuppered the agreement by trying to renegotiate certain aspects of the deal.
In a statement, the Council said: "At the meeting held on Tuesday night the opinion of the Council's senior legal advisor was considered which stated that, due to changes in the proposed lease which resulted in the withdrawal of support from Land and Property Services, it was not legally possible to conclude the transaction."
Ards Mayor Philip Smith added: "I'm hugely disappointed as we all want to see Ards Football Club back in the town. It's been our desire for a number of years and there have been a number of false dawns, we thought this was the answer, but unfortunately we ran into legal difficulties.
"The agreement was for a non-commercial lease, but at a meeting with the Land and Properties Service Ards' representatives suggested changes to the lease that meant the type of lease would need to be changed to a commercial lease, and that wasn't tenable for us.
"We took legal advice on the matter from a QC and he advised that we withdraw the lease."
Furious Ards chairman Brian Adams claimed: "At no time did Ards FC try to renegotiate the deal, we only complied with Council's and LPS's requests."