The views of hundreds of people will be used to help assess the merits of potential proposals to enhance Lydiard House and Park, writes Kevin Burchall at Swindon Council.
More than 300 people attended two recent public engagement drop-in sessions at the Lydiard Park Visitor Centre on 18 and 22 November to share their views on what elements of the park are important to them.
The engagement events were organised after Swindon Borough Council appointed independent property advisor Bilfinger GVA to carry out a marketing exercise to identify joint venture partners for the Council-owned park with a view to reducing the Council’s annual subsidy for the popular attraction.
The drop-in sessions were an opportunity for people to speak to council officers and councillors about the process and all those who attended were asked to fill in a feedback form. The feedback is currently being analysed and will be used as part of the evaluation criteria for assessing expressions of interest.
Exploring commercial opportunities for Lydiard Park formed part of the council’s Leisure and Culture Commissioning Change Programme, which resulted in the successful leasing of the borough’s leisure and golf facilities last year. This secured a sustainable future for these important facilities, which are no longer reliant on subsidies from the Council.
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.
Lydiard House and Park, which has been listed as an Asset of Community Value, will remain in council ownership and any firm proposals arising from the market testing will be brought before ward councillors and park users in the coming months.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Lydiard, said: “It was great to meet so many people who are passionate about Lydiard at the engagement events and to hear their views about what makes the park special to them.
“All the feedback we received is important and will help us assess any expressions of interest that come back from the marketing exercise. It was also interesting to hear some of the misinformation that has been circulating around Lydiard, not least the assertion by the Friends of Lydiard that the figure we provided for Lydiard’s annual subsidy was incorrect.
“This is certainly not the case. The actual subsidy for Lydiard last year was £458,000, a figure that excludes any central overheads or capital costs. We are certain about this as more detailed checks have been undertaken than ever before into the site’s finances, in preparation for the market testing process. The projections for this current year (2015-16) show a subsidy of around £420,000.
“We spent more on Lydiard last year than in previous years due to a fall in the projected income and the fact more staff time was allocated to increasing the park’s profitability. This clearly hasn’t worked as we had hoped which is why we are asking the market for potential solutions.”
The Council is seeking expressions of interest from national, commercial and not-for-profit organisations as well as local community groups and these have to be submitted by Friday 11 December.
To access the subsidy figures for Lydiard House and Park click: swindon.gov.uk/lydiardfinancialsummary
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