In advance of a public meeting about Lydiard House and Park, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland will appear on BBC TV Points West to call for calm heads and positive discussion to ensure the people of the town are fully engaged in the future of the town’s important heritage asset.
The meeting, organised by the Friends of Lydiard Park, at Lydiard Park Academy, Grange Park Way, on Tuesday 12 January, 6.30pm to 7pm, is likely to be packed by people who are worried about Swindon Council’s intentions for the house and park. Robert, Friends chair Mike Bowden and Swindon cabinet member responsible for Lydiard Park Cllr Garry Perkins appear in a local news report on Points West BBC 1, 12 January, between 6.30pm and 7pm – or see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vjwk7).
The council is trying to find a commercial or voluntary organisation which will take responsibility for the site so that the cost of running it will no longer fall upon the council taxpayer. The council claims the cost of running Lydiard is £458,000 but the Friends believe this should be more like £300,000.
Nine expressions of interest in running all or part of the site have been received and a report to the council cabinet on 11 February will agree the terms of a tender process to run between February and June.
Council staff involved with Lydiard Park and Steam Museum submitted an expression of interest to manage the house and park as a community trust and Robert says the council should look seriously at this option. “I support the principal of the council’s decision to explore new management arrangements for Lydiard; the authority is under enormous financial pressure and different ways of managing services have to be found.
“I’ve had a large number of representations from people worried about what might happen to Lydiard so we must take a sensible approach regarding its future, one which keeps the people and the council fully engaged in finding a solution.
“I’m encouraged that the staff have expressed interest in setting up a community trust to run Lydiard. They are the people on the ground involved in looking after the town’s heritage and presenting it to the public: those who visit the museum to learn more about the town, and also the hundreds of thousands who enjoy the open space amenity of the park.
“The community trust is an interesting and important opportunity that the council should explore fully even if it has to delay the asset transfer process it has embarked upon. It’s not beyond the wit of man to come up with solutions to ensure all issues are considered whilst giving the community trust bid a credible chance to succeed.
“I’m confident that a common approach can be agreed for Lydiard and that the public meeting will be a positive step forward to finding it.”
Mike Bowden, chair of the Friends of Lydiard Park, commented: “The Friends want to talk about the community solution and finding an acceptable way forward. We do not want a battle and invite Swindon Borough Council to pause the process for 3 months to allow good faith constructive talks to find a community trust way forward.”
Photo top, the brochure advertising for partners to manage Lydiard House and Park issued by Swindon Council property consultants Bilfinger GVA, with Robert Buckland MP, inset.
Public meeting, Tuesday 12 January, 6.30pm for 7pm, Lydiard Park Academy, Grange Park Way, Swindon SN5 6HN
There will speeches from the Friends of Lydiard Park, which has fundraised for additions for the museum and advocated improvements to the house for 60 years, Cllr Garry Perkins and a representative of the Labour Party, followed by questions and answers.
Since October the Friends of Lydiard Park have conducted a campaign to save the House and Park from the chance it might be transferred by Swindon Borough Council to a private sector operator. An online petition at Change.org has been signed by well on the way to 8,300 people who oppose the council’s plans.
Swindon Council has agreed to debate the future of Lydiard at the next full council meeting on 21 January.