West Swindon Labour Party candidates at May’s local council elections Steph Exell (standing in Shaw) and Jamal Miah (in Lydiard & Freshbrook) launched a petition on 28 February to ensure that the future ownership and responsibility of Lydiard Park & House remains with the council.
They were joined by South Swindon parliamentary candidate Anne Snelgrove and Labour councillors representing West Swindon wards.
But the council’s Conservative cabinet member responsible for Lydiard Park rejects accusation that it is for sale
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned, are concerned at the possibility of Lydiard Park and Lydiard House being sold off to the private sector. We call upon Swindon Council to guarantee that Lydiard Park & Lydiard House will remain under Council ownership and management responsibility.”
The Labour candidates and councillors fear that the council’s Conservative administration is planning to offer its management and heritage assets to the market.
In a separate programme the council has offered the town’s leisure centres and golf courses to companies and not-for-profit management organisations on leases of up to 99 years.
Pictured by Richard Wintle of Calyx, from left, Stephanie Exell, councillor Jim Robbins (Toothill), Anne Snelgrove, councillors Cindy Matthews (Freshbrook & Lydiard), Chris O’Brien, Jamal Miah
Steph Exell said: “Everyone knows that Lydiard House and Country Park belong to the people of Swindon. The Conservative commercial solution is nothing less than a trick to try and convince residents that there isn’t really a sell-off of Swindon’s cultural heritage.”
Councillor Cindy Matthews (for Lydiard & Freshbrook) said: “Labour will not enter into political spin in or out of the council chamber. We are determined to protect this park for future generations rather than let the Conservatives gift a community asset into the hands of the private sector.”
Jamal Miah added: “Lydiard Park is used by many residents in Grange Park and Freshbrook. There is some alarm over what changes may occur when it is ‘sold off’ to a commercial solution. There are some things that you cannot put a price tag on and Lydiard Park is priceless to the people of Swindon”.
However Councillor Gary Perkins, Conservative cabinet member responsible for Economy, Regeneration and Culture, also a West Swindon councillor for Shaw, disparaged the accusations of a sell off. "To suggest the council is planning to sell Lydiard Park is nonsensical – it’s not going to happen.
"I expect Labour will get some publicity, but let’s be clear, they won’t be able to claim success because Lydiard Park is not for sale.
"Senior Labour councillors sit on the council’s working party which is discussing the difficult questions of how to come up with sustainable future management of the town’s parks and heritage facilities in very difficult financial times. This petition is a publicity stunt – I say, stop playing games and contribute something constructive to the problem of having to make savings in the council’s budget so that council tax can be kept frozen or as low as possible."
Leisure centre and golf courses – Councillor Keith William’s sets out the council’s case
Leisure centre and golf courses – Jane Milner-Barry expresses her worries about the council’s plan.