Councillors were branded 'a disgrace’ at Monday’s town council meeting for the way they dealt with a petition calling on them not to force a town centre restaurant out of its premises.

The criticism came from the managing director of King Street restaurant and wedding venue, The Belle Epoque.

Knutsford Town Council and The Belle Epoque are locked in a bitter legal battle over the iconic premises the restaurant leases at 60 King Street.

The council says its tenant had ‘forfeited’ the lease by entering into a Company Voluntary Arrangement, and has issued possession proceedings.

The Belle Epoque is fighting the move and presented a petition signed by 169 residents urging the council not to force the company out of 60 King Street.

The town council agreed at Monday’s meeting to take no action over the petition.

Cllr Simon Hutchence said: “I am concerned that 60 King Street has taken up a lot of time for this council, particularly the Assets Committee.”

The council backed his proposal that it take no action on the petition and the Assets Committee continues to deal with issues involving 60 King Street.

Before the brief discussion, town clerk Adam Keppel-Green told councillors that in discussing matters in public relating to 60 King Street they should be conscious there were active court processes in relation to the lease on the building.

Matthew Mooney, managing director of The Belle Epoque, attended the meeting, which was packed with residents there for items on the petition and the Makers Market.

Knutsford Guardian:

Belle Epoque MD Matthew Mooney

Before the petition item he spoke for five minutes, dealing with issues relating to a statement on the council’s position regarding 60 King Street issued to the Guardian last week.

He said: “If you [Knutsford Town Council] are to protect the taxpayers then withdrawing the forfeiture is the only route to go.

“Proceeding with it is likely to leave the taxpayer £300,000 or more out of pocket – withdrawing will cost nothing.

“We have offered to take on a new lease with the repairing covenant that would save the taxpayer this expense and much more. At all times we have behaved in an honourable manner.”

He also spoke during the public participation part of the evening at the end of the meeting, accusing the council of prejudging the issue.

He said: “I’m not sure what’s gone on this evening. What I do know is that it’s not democracy by any stretch. The whole thing was a farce from start to finish. You clearly had already made up your minds.

“I came here to urge the council to read the petition and read the comments of 166 Knutsford residents.

“You’ve done nothing – you’ve not even read the petition and the wonderful comments of support we’ve had.

“I also came here hoping you’d do the right thing ethically and morally and withdraw the forfeiture.

“It’s clear you are going to do no such thing. If this is democracy I’m a banana – disgrace – absolute disgrace – all of you.”