Swindon Borough Council is looking to offload responsibility for running Lydiard House and the Park and reduce the annual subsidy of £450,000.
Adverts have been placed in trade journals and newspapers to invite organisations to submit proposals to make the asset more sustainable and given responsibility of finding new venture partner to independent property advisor Bilfinger GVA.
Bilfinger GVA are running two public engagement events in the Lydiard Park Visitor Centre to explain the outline proposals and to find out what people. One took place on Wednesday 18 November, a second will take place on Sunday 22 November, 9.30am and 3.30pm. The council is seeking expressions of interest from national, commercial and not-for-profit organisations as well as local community groups by Friday 11 December.
The council has already leased part of Lydiard to tree-top adventure company Jungle Parc and regularly hires out the park for events, while the Lydiard House Conference Centre could also form the basis of potential proposals with the current lease due to expire next year. Present tenants Chartridge have already purchased nearby Marsh Farm Hotel where they will transfer their conference and wedding reception business.
Lydiard House and Park, which has been listed as an Asset of Community Value, will remain in council ownership, but the Friends of Lydiard Park, which has acted as an advocate and fundraiser for the house and park for the last 60 years, have set out their minimum conditions to any transfer of management responsibility for Lydiard House and the Park.
Friends chair Mike Bowden said: “While we appreciate the severe financial constraints that all local authority’s face, the Trustees of the Friends are opposed to:
• Any arrangement that would cause harm or loss to the significance and historical importance of Lydiard House and Park.
• Any situation that involves the closure or a reduction in free access to the Park and grounds by the general public.
• Any situation that involves the closure or a reduction in access to the Lydiard House Museum and Walled Garden by the general public.
• Any destruction of the historic landscape and structures within the Park which were restored as part of the £5.1m Heritage Lottery Fund Project.
• Any arrangement which would harm, disperse, or sell any part of the historic Lydiard House Museum collections, including such items as paintings, artefacts, archives, and furnishings.
• Any arrangement that does not address the on-going maintenance and repair of the House and Park.
• Any arrangement that would involve the sale or sub-letting of the Park and Lydiard House Museum.
• Any arrangement that significantly contradicts the long term plans for Lydiard Park submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2005.
• No binding decisions on the future of Lydiard House and Park to be made without full and transparent compliance with Swindon Borough Council’s recently established Consultation Policy.
• No decisions should be taken regarding the future of Lydiard until the accounts have been properly audited and corrected.
Residents or users who cannot make any of the engagement events can email in their views via: email@example.com
Friends of Lydiard Park pictured in front of the house by Richard Wintle of Calyx, from left, Anthony St John, Sarah Finch-Crisp, Sonia St John, Julie Holland, Mike Bowden