I am sure many of you will have been following the controversy that has arisen concerning the future of Lydiard House and Park. Many of the questions given to me are about the uncertainty of what might happen.
While we are still at an early stage in the process, I can reassure you that the Administration has agreed some core principles that will inform any future decision.
Firstly and most importantly, the Council will retain ownership of the House and Park and safeguard the historical importance of the Lydiard House Museum and its collections as well as the Walled Garden.
We will protect the historic landscape and structures within the Park, which were restored as part of the £5.1m Heritage Lottery Fund Project. We will not permit any arrangement that significantly contradicts the long-term plans for Lydiard Park submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2005.
We will ensure the continuation of public access to the Park and grounds.
We will address the on-going maintenance and repair of the House and Park.
We will continue to consult with users of the house and park, local residents and key stakeholder groups including the Friends, as we have been doing for some months already. As the above evidences, I believe we all share the same objective, which is to find a sustainable future for Lydiard, within the Council’s ownership.
Above all, the Council will make any binding decisions on the future of Lydiard House and Park completely transparently. We will ask Council, not Cabinet, to make the final decision. Councillors will take all information into account before voting.
Last December, Cabinet agreed a process that would have allowed Councillor Garry Perkins to seek formal tenders for Lydiard House and Park in January. Bidders would have had eight weeks or so to respond, with the Council having a few weeks to evaluate these bids before taking a final recommendation to April’s Cabinet meeting. The all-party Scrutiny committee made no comment about this when it reviewed Cabinet’s decisions.
However, in recognition of the Friends and people not just in Swindon, but across England, parts of Europe and the US, Councillor Perkins has declined to use that permission.
Instead, I am pleased to say that Councillor Garry Perkins will be presenting a motion to Council on Thursday that recognises the wishes of the Friends of Lydiard. If adopted, it will allow them more than the three months requested at the public meeting on 12 January to develop further their own submission.
While this will add another pressure to our budget deliberations, I believe that this is a good compromise that will allow all of Swindon to see how the Administration does listen and respond to concerns.