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Walton Hall and Gardens SOLD

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Latest news buzzing around is that the sell off of Walton Hall and Gardens is as good as done, with the i 's to be dotted and the t 's to be crossed very shortly!

 

Stockton Heath residents were last night informed at a 'Question Time' meeting in St Thomas's Hall by a very concerned and extremely well informed gentleman that the deal to turn Walton Hall into a Boutique Hotel, private golf club, and riverside bar was far more advanced than than the public are aware. He also informed residents that circa 50% of the land will also be taken from public use.

The 'deal' includes granting a lease of 125 years to the developer.

 

.........

 

Just what the hell is going on in the town hall chambers?

A lease of 125 years is in effect a sell off.

The Hall, the heritage centre, the crazy golf and 50% of the land all of which are owned by the public are to be lost to us. There's been no public consultation just dealings behind closed doors it's a total disgrace!

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How very ill informed, indeed not informed at all.

 

The following is the current state of play:

 

Walton Hall Estate & Gardens

 

This note is intended to give an overview of the process the Council is currently pursuing for the restoration of Walton Hall estate.

 

In 2008 the Council?s Executive Board agreed to explore the potential of the estate in order to preserve it for future generations. This would be a mix of commercial opportunities as well as enhancing the current range of facilities.

 

The main buildings within the estate are in a poor condition, particularly the Glasshouse and Equestrian Hall. The Council does not have the financial resources available to restore these buildings. We do not want the estate to decline. Unfortunately, external grant funding has not yet been forthcoming. Therefore, we feel it is necessary to explore other options to secure a viable future for the estate.

 

Like most other public parks, the Council has to maintain Walton from existing budgets. We would wish the estate to be self-financing and viable into the future through a mix of commercial activities appropriate for a park environment. Last year, the Council explored what interest could be generated through a national advertising campaign to deliver these aspirations.

 

We have followed appropriate formal procurement processes and discussed opportunities with a number of businesses and interested parties. The detail will be reported to the Council?s Executive Board this summer as a precursor to further public consultation.

 

The estate will not be sold. It is our intention that the public will continue to enjoy access throughout the estate at all times.

 

The council?s aspiration can be identified as three interrelated components:

 

1. Commercial development of the main Hall and ancillary buildings.

2. Improved golf facilities through the creation of an Academy.

3. Creative direction for the parkland through a master planning process.

 

The benefits to the public can be summarised as follows:

 

? Preserve the estate for future generations

? Improved access to the range of buildings within the estate not previously enjoyed

? Greater diversity of leisure interests

? Improved visitor experience

 

The Council anticipates that the timescale to achieve the above is as follows:

 

Summer 2010 Executive Board to select preferred partner(s) for the development of the estate

 

Summer 2010 Public consultation

 

Autumn 2010 Planning Application for main phase of development, including public participation

 

Spring 2011 Commence refurbishment of Walton Hall estate heritage

 

Spring 2011 Finalise master plan

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Like most other public parks, the Council has to maintain Walton from existing budgets. We would wish the estate to be self-financing

 

One thing I don't quite understand.

 

Where does the expectation that a park - a public amenity, donated by a benefactor, for the free enjoyment of all - should be self-financing come from?

 

How CAN a park be self-financing (short of selling off, or otherwise sectioning off, chunks of it for the exclusive use of those willing to pay), and WHY should it.

 

Maintaining parks and public open spaces is one of the things a local council is for, and they already receive a very large amount of money from every household in the borough in order to acheive this.

 

What's next? Selling off highways for the exclusive use of some because the council has spent everything it should have spent on maintainance and gritting on other things?

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Council resources are finite and whether we like it or not, it isn't right to spend a lot of money to just maintain the buildings. Not when Warrington has other basic services desperately short of funding.

 

It isn't right to let the buildings rot either, they are no use to most people now, they will decay to the point of hazard and in the meantime, there will always be someone who can find an unwelcome use for a derelict building.

 

So it makes perfect sense to have some activities in the park that will attract enough money to maintain the place - we're talking tea shop, driving range, gift shop, just like every other estate, not shopping malls and a marina for yachts! Nobody has to pay to use the Park, everybody benefits.

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How very ill informed, indeed not informed at all.

 

Maybe that's the problem Paul... the council hold discussions and make decisions behind closed doors and members of the public are left in the dark to 'read between the lines' of the snippets of information that are given to the press.

 

However, I too attended the question time meeting and heard the two gents in question talk and they did seem quite knowleagable about it all. One was connected with the Hall in some way and the other had something to do with Contesa !?!?

 

Anyway... I am sort of down the middle on this one as obviously I'd hate to see the wonderfull Hall and Gardens fall into a state of ruin as happens so often when WBC are in charge of our heritage... but at the same time I would hate to see the general public excluded or restricted from FREE access to the whole of the estate and grounds ...as was the wish of the Greenall family when they handed it over to the council.

 

The bit that concerns me in the document you have just posted though is

 

This note is intended to give an overview of the process the Council is currently pursuing for the restoration of Walton Hall estate...............................

 

The estate will not be sold. It is our intention that the public will continue to enjoy access throughout the estate at all times.

 

1. ....... this is only WBS's intention and we all know what that often means... it may NOT be the intention of whoever takes it over and manages it once they get going or when access problems arise at a later date once the development is complete.

 

2. They don't say FREE access... just access :?

 

3. Also having looked at Contessas other hotels (which look very nice indeed). I have to wonder wether people staying in the rather posh hotel once it is revamped will mind paying for a luxury weekend away whilst being surrounded by masses of free park visitors over the summer months. eg The sloped field nearest to the hall is usually full of groups of people with their tops of playing football :):)

And on the same vein I can't imagine Contesa wanting to plough million into a Hotel development for the same reason unless some sort of restriction to access is allowed.

 

So..... my personal reconing is that certain areas nearest to the Hall will have to become out of bounds to us riff raff and maybe parts of the formal Gardens too

 

...... whilst other areas such as the childrens play area, zoo, crazy golf and grassed areas not directly next to the Hall/Hotel will be retained as the free public park area. Wonder where the hotel car park and access road will be though !?!

 

Anyway like I've said I'm split on this one and I am only guessing as I dont know all the facts :wink::D

 

Guess it will all come out in the wash one day and we'll all be pleasantly suprised :roll::lol:

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Council resources are finite and whether we like it or not, it isn't right to spend a lot of money to just maintain the buildings.

 

The current buildings could be easily made to pay sufficient for their own maintainance, and improvement.

 

The Hall itself provides an excellent venue for weddings and other functions, but is under-utilised for various reasons - mainly from what I see due to lack management imagination - from the dealings I've had with them this potentially valuable revenue stream seems to be viewed as a sideline rather than an integral part of an overall plan.

 

The car park charging situation also puts some people off visiting - or from staying all day and spending money when they do. Anyone with experience of the retail trade will tell you that free parking encourages people to come in greater numbers and that they then spend far more than would have been gained in parking charges - whilst still allowing people the opportunity to come for free and just have a look around.

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It's a nice venue, but not big and not well laid out. It could never compete with venues like Arley in the stately home market, nor could it match the prices of the big chains. No onsite accommodation and frankly 100 guests trying to use the bar in the evening bottlenecks the place. They tried it for meetings, and found that the cost of staffing etc meant room hire and refreshments were not competitive. It is a money maker, but not enough of one to fund bringing the decor etc up to the required standard, never mind any extra to improve things. And if you hire it out for weddings, you have to exclude the public, don't you?

 

In short, the wedding/meetings trade would still have to run in tandem with other commercial opportunities. Personally, I'd like to see something along the lines of local artists and craftsmen, tea rooms, ice cream parlour, local history - I'm sure additional funding could be had for setting up a local Museum, for example.

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Main problem is that when you google "walton hall weddings" all you it get is a single page on the WBC website with a 4 page downloadable brouchure - which doesn't even mention the fact that it has a licence for civil ceremonies!

 

Needs it's own website at least if it's to compete with the other mid-price venues (golf clubs etc) in the area.

 

Agree with you about the arty crafty stuff. There's loads of scope to do more and generate some revenue with what's already there, without selling off the crown jewels to do it.

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The mentality of the council would need to change. If people use a venue, the first thought is that it is a cash cow and bang charges on that drive people away.

But in the age of consultants everything is about sustainability, not people.

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In 2008 the Council?s Executive Board agreed to explore the potential of the estate in order to preserve it for future generations.

 

October 2009 Executive Board Report

 

http://212.248.237.112/CmisWebPublic/Binary.ashx?Document=10142

 

but as the named ward member Paul you will have obviously alread seen it :lol::wink:

So.... what was in the confidential/exempt appendix to the report that was referred to and is NOT available for public viewing due to the content of exempt information contained within Category 3 of the Local Government Act 1972 8):?

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How very ill informed, indeed not informed at all.

 

How very arrogant and also how very evasive of you Paul to answer my post in such a way!

I have merely relayed information which was given to the public at an open meeting. A meeting where (though you omit to say) you yourself were also present.

You listened to the gentleman speak, you were aware that he was accompanied by members of the 'Friends of Walton Hall' that he was in fact very well informed and certainly appeared as a far more reliable source of information than any of our councillors or exec board members have been to date.

 

The following is the current state of play:

 

Walton Hall Estate & Gardens

 

This note is intended to give an overview of the process the Council is currently pursuing for the restoration of Walton Hall estate.

 

In 2008 the Council?s Executive Board agreed to explore the potential of the estate in order to preserve it for future generations. This would be a mix of commercial opportunities as well as enhancing the current range of facilities.

 

The council employed a very expensive consultancy to look at the options for them.

 

The main buildings within the estate are in a poor condition, particularly the Glasshouse and Equestrian Hall. The Council does not have the financial resources available to restore these buildings. We do not want the estate to decline. Unfortunately, external grant funding has not yet been forthcoming. Therefore, we feel it is necessary to explore other options to secure a viable future for the estate.

 

"Unfortunately, external grant funding has not yet been forthcoming."

This begs the question "Just what efforts have actually been made to secure external funding?"

Also, it's not exactly a true statement, in recent years landfill tax has been aquired for the estate. This source will no doubt be available and used again.

Not many years ago I was actually in attendance at a meeting in the gardens with the then estate manager and a representative from a landfill tax distributor. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of funding to develop the heritage yard into a heritage and art/craft centre. We were told that money was available and that an application would most probably be considered favourably. When I later enquired as to how the application was going I was told that the council had decided to apply for a bridge rather than develop the heritage centre. The council obviously had their own plans for the future of the estate even then.

"Other options" to this private sell out have always and still are available.

(and Paul, don't bother coming back with comments such as I don't understand the implications/difficulties/expense of renovating the glasshouse etc because I do and I am also aware of other sources of funding which could be available.

With a little effort a viable future for the estate could be secured, the real truth of the matter is that the council prefer offload to effort!

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Paul K. are you proud of Warrington Borough Councils record when it comes to the protection of our towns heritage? Not a leading question just cant tell where you are sometimes :wink:

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...........and what protection of our heritage would that be exactly?

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Possibly the kind that doesn't provide Gov funds or listing in time to save it OR inadequate planning laws that allows cowboy builders to "accidentally" demolish such buildings during renovation?! :wink:

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Dear Paul

 

I would like to comment on some of the quotes in your response...

 

"How very ill informed, indeed not informed at all"

EVERYTHING YOU HAVE SAID IN YOUR RESPONSE I KNEW ALREADY SO I AM AT LEAST AS WELL INFORMED AS YOU.

 

"We would wish the estate to be self-financing"

WHY. THIS IS A PUBLIC AMENITY. THE COUNCIL SHOULD INVEST SOMETHING TO KEEP IT GOING.

 

"The estate will not be sold"

CONTESSA HOTELS ARE INVESTING UPWARDS OF ?20 MILLION - SO IF NOTHING IS BEING SOLD WHAT ARE THEY BUYING? THEY ARE BUYING A LONG TERMS LEASE FOR WALTON HALL AND A SUBSTANTIAL AREA OF EXISTING PARKLAND.

 

"It is our intention that the public will continue to enjoy access throughout the estate at all times"

DO YOU THINK THAT CONTESSA HOTELS WILL BE HAPPY TO INVEST ?20 MILLION PLUS SO KIDS CAN RUN AROUND, AND PEOPLE CAN WALK THIER DOGS WHEREVER AND WHENEVER THEY WANT TO? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT IS COMMERCIALLY VIABLE FOR CONTESSA?

THEY WILL WANT EXCLUSIVE USE OF GROUNDS.

 

"Preserve the estate for future generations"

IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO PRESERVE THE GARDENS FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS IF YOU HAVE SOLD THEM (ON A LONG TERM LEASE) TO A PRIVATE HOTEL CHAIN. THE HALL AND BUILDING MAY NEED INVESTMENT BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF SELLING OFF A SUBSTANTIAL ARE OF PARKLAND.

 

"Improved visitor experience"

NOT FOR ME AND THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WHO USE THE GARDENS TODAY - WE WILL NOT HAVE FREE ACCESS TO ALL OF THE GROUNDS AS WE HAVE NOW.

 

"Summer 2010 Executive Board to select preferred partner(s) for the development of the estate"

ITS CONTESSA HOTELS, THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION BEING PROPOSED.

 

"Summer 2010 Public consultation"

BY THE TIME THE COUNCIL PLANS TO INVOLVE THE PUBLIC WBC WOULD HAVE ALREADY PROPOSED THE DEVELOPMENT AND APPROVED IT SUBJECT TO PLANNING PERMISSION. SO IS THIS PUBLIC CONSULTATION OR IS IT REALLY PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

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Having spoken to many members of the Friends of Walton Estate it is clear that this is a done deal and no matter how the council try to sweeten the medicine- the majority of the public in Warrington will not dicover what has gone on until they turn up one day to find parts of Walton Gardens "out of bounds".

 

The sad thing is that, because of the way this has been mis-managed, the great unwashed will not believe any of the reasoning offered in any "consultation". Our trust in politicians is badly broken already- this sort of activity does nothing to repair the damage.

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Possibly the kind that doesn't provide Gov funds or listing in time to save it OR inadequate planning laws ..... :wink:

 

Which allows wonderful locally listed buildings like this one to be demolished and replaced with substandard cheap tat :roll:

 

Congratulations must go the Lib Demolitions for all their hard work in 'protecting' yet another piece of our heritage :roll:

 

picturesfromoldPC575-1.jpg

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This is getting like panto "oh yes it is", "oh no it isn't". That's pointless. How do we find out whether there is an agreement in place or not?

 

Secondly, whilst we would all like the Hall and all the parkland freely open to the public as it is now, are there any financially realistic options for doing that? Somebody has got to put money into something, because right now, the whole lot is falling into decay and it would be wrong to take council funding away from education, housing or other basics.

 

If we have a choice between ?20M income to the area from the lease, plus a refurbishment and development programme that will save the Hall OR WBC sitting tight and Hall and park left to rot, which are we going to pick? In the absence of other funding, that's our choice and there's no point shouting unless we are going to come up with another option.

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WBC will no doubt say that public consultation has taken place by the fact that it is being discussed on this Forum.

A colleague and I went to see one of the head honcho's regarding taking over a Rangers cabin that was no longer being used.

Whilst discussing this, the person told us why the Rangers had been moved. (We didn't ask). Some weeks later it was in print that we had been consulted with over the removal of the Rangers.

This was NOT true.

 

My point is, the council twist things round to suit themselves regardless of the truth. :evil::evil::evil::evil::evil::evil:

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Yes. Point accepted. We all know. But that gets us no further over Walton Hall. If we do not like the plans WBC have in mind, then either we find another workable plan to force discussions or we all chip in a million quid and outbid Contesa. There is no magic pot of money that WBC will uncover if we complain loudly enough. If we just moan on about lack of transparency, then one of two things WILL happen - Contesa will get the lease, or the Hall will rot. Like them or not, our Councillors have to make a choice between the options available to them.

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There is no magic pot of money that WBC will uncover if we complain loudly enough. If we just moan on about lack of transparency, then one of two things WILL happen - Contesa will get the lease, or the Hall will rot. Like them or not, our Councillors have to make a choice between the options available to them.

 

?Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV)

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