Hopes are rising for a solution to some of the issues at Haigh Hall after protestors held a positive meeting with top Wigan Council officials.
Senior civil servants met a delegation from the Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access To All group to talk about their demands for unrestricted public access to the landmark site and concerns about the way Contessa Hotels is operating.
The group has racked up a considerable amount of support online after it began protesting about the gates on the main drive being locked and visitors diverted to a panoramic path.
That has now been deemed unsafe and the council has created a new access point adjacent to the gates which should ensure everyone, including wheelchair users, cyclists and parents with prams or buggies, can get into the area around the clock.
The meeting was also an opportunity for the protestors to formally present a petition signed by more than 5,000 borough residents outlining their demands.
That should now trigger a full debate on access around the hotel in the council chamber.
Both the campaigners and the local authority have spoken warmly following the meeting and further discussions about the hall being run as a boutique hotel are already arranged.
Alison McKenzie-Folan, chief executive of Wigan Council, said: “We would like to thank the group for meeting with us, it was a positive and productive meeting where we listened to concerns. We have agreed to meet again in a few weeks.”
A spokesperson for the campaign group said: “It was a positive meeting. We spoke for about an hour and a half and they are going to meet with us in another couple of weeks to take the conversation further.
“We’ve been able to get some things off our chest and share some of our information. It’s the start of a dialogue.
“They want to work together and we are open to doing that because we all agree that none of this would have happened had they not locked the gates and made it seem uninviting to Wiganers. What was promised for the hotel at Haigh Hall has not been delivered.”
No-one is currently supposed to be staying at Haigh Hall overnight as the fire service slapped a prohibition order on sleeping above ground floor level due to inadequate ways of getting out in an emergency.
The roof terrace is also subject to a Wigan Council banning order for safety reasons.