The Friends of Lydiard Park have posted a seasonal greetngs picture on their Facebook page which reflects their worry that Lydiard House might one day be converted from a historic home museum into a hotel.
The page says: ‘The deadline for submitting expressions of interest to run Lydiard House & Park was last Friday. We sincerely hope that this is NOT the future for any part of this heritage site and, with your support and that of around 7,200 people who have signed our petition, will continue to lobby Swindon Borough Council for assurances about future access to the Grade 1 listed Lydiard House, it’s museum, walled garden and the 260 acre parkland that it is set in.’
Swindon Council, is working with property consultants Belfinger GVA, is currently searching for a partner to manage the house and park which will stay within council ownership. This could be a commercial body or a trust. Interested parties had until Friday 11 December to lodge expressions of interest in taking on the responsibility.
Information on the range of organisations have submitted proposals has yet to be revealed, but Swindon Link understands one of the applicants is Twigmarket Ltd which took over Swindon Council’s golf courses on 1 November 2014. They recently applied for planning permission to build a hotel at Broome Manor Golf Club.
The other interest is from a staff group who want to run Lydiard House and Park under the umbrella of a community trust.
The council cabinet wants to decide on a preferred partner at its meeting in February with the aim of completing a legal agreement in June.
There has been a conference centre attached to Lydiard House for many years; it uses some of the upper floor of the house for meetings. This commercially run facility also enjoys the status of a hotel.
Under new management this might be upgraded to provide a higher quality conference and wedding venue to generate income, but according to Councillor Garry Perkins, Swindon cabinet member for the transfer of the Lydiard Park estate, a new build hotel is not in the council’s planning.
On 9 December he told Swindon Link: “We are using consultants to independently and fairly evaluate the expressions of interest from different organisations with experience or ability to take on management of Lydiard, and also to bring together all the comments made by the public. I am not party to the details because these will be compiled in a report for cabinet. Once that is done we will engage in a more formal consultation on the options in front of the council.
“Nothing has been agreed, we’re not advocating a new build hotel in the park as has been suggested, and we’re not proposing that people’s access to the park is hindered. I’ve said all along the access enjoyed by residents at present must continue.
“We need to acknowledge there is already some commercialisation in Lydiard Park with the conference centre, the Jungle Parc outdoor adventure centre, and also events run by council staff. Several years ago all parties in the council agreed plans that a new special needs family support centre for Hop, Skip and Jump could be built next to the sports field, so there is precedent. The point is we’re trying to find out what more might be acceptable without damaging the essential features that make Lydiard special.”
Related stories and links on SwindonLink