Every Conservative councillor representing wards on Swindon Council, and candidates standing for election on 22 May, have signed an open letter stating there are no plans to sell off one of the town’s favourite places.
They are calling on the public not to be misled by accusations in election leaflets being circulated by the Labour party.
A storm has arisen since Swindon Link was the first to report the launch of a petition by Labour candidates to prevent any moves to sell the historic house and park on Friday 28 February.
The letter has been put together in response to what is described as ‘deceiving campaigning tactics.’
Councillor Garry Perkins, Conservative cabinet member responsible for Economy, Regeneration and Culture, also a West Swindon councillor for Shaw, disparaged the accusations.
"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.
Former leader of the council Rod Bluh said the information in the Labour leaflet was deceiving and designed to deliberately worry voters. "The tactic is for political gain and immoral."
Coun Dale Heenan added: "We cannot forget that the only reason this is being talked about is because Labour Party Council Candidates have lied to thousands of residents in writing that the Conservatives are ‘selling off Lydiard’ and ‘asset stripping.’
How can anyone be trusted if they consider this acceptable election tactics to gain a few extra votes on May 22nd?"
Councillor of Shaw Nick Martin: "Labour are not telling the truth, but then what’s new? I was closely involved in the £5 million plan to restore Lydiard Park from 2002 to 2005, and am proud of the work and my involvement in bringing back an important part of the town’s heritage to the people of Swindon. So I am especially sickened by Labour candidates’ lack of integrity in this year’s political campaign."
The letter signed by present Conservative councillors and candidates
You may have recently heard from someone knocking at your door, or seen a letter, claiming that Lydiard Park is up for sale. We can state categorically that Lydiard Park is NOT being offered for sale and NO such proposal has been discussed. Residents should treat these claims with the contempt they deserve because they are only designed to mislead.
Swindon Conservatives are proud of Lydiard Park which includes the Palladian House, the Church and Walled Garden, set in 260 acres of parkland. So proud are we that we secured £5 million of investment in order to restore it all to its former glory.
We have invested in the children’s play area, cafe and tea rooms and a series of events and education programmes which make Lydiard a great destination for a family day out or a short visit.
We are determined to secure the long term future of Lydiard Park so it can prosper and be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Many commercial and charitable activities already take place in the park such as venue hire for receptions and weddings, the hire of bbqs, the sale of plants outside the Walled Garden, a cafe, the adventure JungleParc and charity fundraising runs. Our ambition is for there to be more of these activities to increase both visitor numbers and income meaning the park is much less reliant on public subsidy.
Sadly, Senior Labour Party Councillors, Council Candidates and the two Labour Party Parliamentary Candidates have decided to misrepresent our position to start one of the most dishonest and negative political campaigns that Swindon has ever seen.
Their claims that Lydiard park is being "sold off" as part of an "asset stripping" campaign are shocking and bring politics into disrepute to gain a few extra votes. It is also deeply disturbing that, in these financially challenging times, they have no vision for the future of Swindon.
Senior Labour councillors are actively involved on the council’s working party which is discussing the difficult questions of how to come up with sustainable futures of the town’s parks and heritage facilities. They cannot plead ignorance and this tactic has destroyed any credibility the Labour Party may have had so do not believe their claims.
Mike Bawden, Andrew Bennett, Alan Bishop, Roderick Bluh, Michael Bray, Wayne Crabbe, Michael Dickinson, Oliver Donachie, Mark Edwards, Toby Elliott, Claire Ellis, Emma Faramarzi, Fionuala Foley, Brian Ford, Mary Friend, John Haines, Peter Heaton-Jones, Dale Heenan, Russell Holland, Richard Hurley, Colin Lovell, Mary Martin, Nick Martin, Brian Mattock, Kevin Parry, Maureen Penny, Garry Perkins, David Renard, Tim Swinyard, Vera Tomlinson, Steve Weisinger, Keith Williams