THE council’s decision to continue talking to a hotel company over the future of Walton Hall and Gardens has been called in by an opposition councillor.

Clr Terry O’Neill, leader of the Labour Group, has asked for the executive board’s decision to continue talks with Contessa over turning Walton Hall into a hotel be examined by a panel of councillors.

He said: “I have complained at the legality of the decision. We are questioning the lack of consultation and all they are consulting on is the masterplan, there wasn’t any consultation on the vision for Walton Hall. It wasn’t a proper transparent open procurement process either with only one company - Contessa.”

A mass of public opposition was mounted when it was revealed that Warrington Borough Council were looking at offering a 125 year lease for Walton Hall.

Save Walton Gardens had collected more than 17,000 members of a Facebook group opposing any lease and also handed over a petition with more than 7,000 signatures to Clr Ian Marks, leader of the council.

They have received one offer from Contessa that would see the hall and some of the surrounding gardens closed off to the public to create a five star hotel.

At a packed executive board meeting last week Mark White, from the group Save Walton Gardens, told the public it had seen a large rise in operation costs for the estate in just one year.

And Labour councillors asked for a copy of those accounts at Monday night’s full council meeting to check the changes.

“The transport costs have gone up so much I think they are manipulating the figures to make it look like it’s not profitable. We think they are running the estate down so it looks like the only option is to sell it off,” added Clr O’Neill.