After a row in early March about the future of Lydiard Park, Swindon Council is to investigate whether setting up a trust to manage the house and park is the right way forward for one of the town’s favourite places.
Labour party councillors and election candidates launched a petition calling on Swindon Council to ensure the town’s most important heritage site is retained under council ownership and management responsibility.
They’ve been highlighting concerns that the house and park is being considered for long term leases. In a separate programme, Swindon’s leisure centres and golf courses are being offered to leisure management companies or not-for-profit organisations on 99 year leases.
Opposing a ‘sale’ of Lydiard Park, from left, election candidate Stephanie Exell, councillor Jim Robbins (Toothill), prospective parliamentary candidate for South Swindon Anne Snelgrove, councillors Cindy Matthews (Freshbrook & Lydiard), Chris O’Brien, candidate Jamal Miah, pictured by Richard Wintle of Calyx
The Conservative administration immediately hit back saying a sell off was not envisaged and every councillor and candidate had signed an open letter stating that none supported such a move.
Now Conservative councillors Keith Williams and Michael Dickinson have put down a motion for debate at a full meeting of the council on Thursday 3 March which both criticises people for suggesting a sale is on the cards and sets in motion a process to consider how to move forward. It reads:
– condemns the scaremongering and claims being made that Lydiard Park and House is being "sold off" and is part of a campaign of "asset stripping" within the borough.
– reminds Members of their duties under the Councillors’ code conduct not to bring the authority into disrepute.
– agrees that there are no plans, and this Administration will not bring forward any plans, to sell Lydiard Park and House.
– requests that the Cabinet Members for the Economy, Regeneration and Culture and Highways, Strategic Transport and Leisure, presents a report to Cabinet as soon as practicable on ways to ensure that Lydiard is preserved for future generations to use and enjoy such as through a trust.”
However Cindy Matthews, Labour councillor for Freshbrook and the Lydiards, rejects the suggestion that people are being misled about how Lydiard Park is to be managed in the future. She said: "We do not consider that we have been scaremongering.
"We are very concerned about the administration offloading its leisure assets. We are aware that Lydiard has been identified as being under review and ‘seeking further commercialization’.
"The possibility of Lydiard also being offloaded was first highlighted by the Swindon Advertiser on the 4 December last year and was not denied until now when an election is approaching.
"We are also aware that ‘not being sold’ is not the same as remaining under Council management and control and that what the two group leaders have promised is not the same thing. Presumably the administration would say that a 99 year lease is technically not a sale though most of us would consider if we had a 99 year lease on something we effectively owned it."
Right, Lydiard House in the park restored with Heritage Lottery funding