Since the announcement about the Council’s plan to find ways to make better commercial use of Lydiard House and Park, there has been much debate about what this means for Swindon, writes the leader of Swindon Council.
I would like to allay some of the fears raised. I can assure you that the Council has no intent to sell off the Park and Grounds. Over the past decade, it has been one of Swindon’s great achievements first to secure Heritage Lottery Funding to restore this great facility. I am delighted that all parties supported the Council’s work to achieve this and I hope the cross-party agreement on keeping the House and Park can continue.
The Vision, which Council adopted last Thursday (24 September), makes ensuring local culture one of our four priorities. In addition, we have just registered the House and Park as a Community Asset, which provides additional safeguards for the site.
It is a given that we want to keep the Lydiard as an asset for residents and visitors. Equally, we do not a want it to be a liability for the local taxpayer; it is our duty to find ways of making better commercial use of the whole facility.
We are now starting a process to see what other uses charities, not-for-profit groups or even private companies can suggest that will achieve our goal: how can we provide a sustainable future for the House and Park?
That might mean introducing car-parking charges. I am sure given all that we would still offer for free at the park, whether that is the weekly 5k runs, the excellent areas for picnics in the summer, the walled garden or the just the pleasant green space, this small cost would provide value for money.
There might be suggestions for more activities at Lydiard. We already have open-air theatre productions, a Food and Drink Festival and other events. As we are still marking the Centenary of the Great War, it is also important to note that we host The Royal British Legion’s Royal Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance at Lydiard Park.
We even had something on the scale of the BBC Radio One Big Weekend a few years ago, which illustrates the potential.
I invite a positive debate about what we can do with our parks, not just Lydiard but also Stanton and Coate Water.
The only way the Borough could ever put Lydiard in jeopardy is to try to reject any changes at all.