The running of Lydiard House and Park will be formally put out to tender at Swindon Council’s cabinet on Wednesday February 10.
Organisations are being asked to submit their formal bids by early May. The final decision of who will take over the park will be made at a cabinet meeting in June so that the preferred organisation to take over the heritage asset in September.
The cabinet will also consider a proposal to introduce car parking charges at both Lydiard Park and Coate Water in the summer months.
This will be to make up for a shortfall in budget for the running of Lydiard Park as no funds were allocated against these costs in the draft council budget for 2016/17 published in December 2015.
The process was delayed after the council were lobbied for more time so a community bid could be put together.
A report going before the council has also revealed the criteria that all the organisations putting forward a tender will have to abide by.
- Secure a sustainable future for Lydiard House and Park within the council’s ownership that does not rely on an on-going council subsidy.
- Safeguard the historical importance of the Lydiard House Museum and its collections and the walled garden and ensure they remain accessible to the general public.
- Protect the historic landscape and structures within the park, which were restored as part of the £5.1million Heritage Lottery Fund Project, and reflect the long-term plans submitted in 2015.
- Allow the continuation of public access to the park and grounds.
- Address the on-going maintenance and repair of the house and park.
The cabinet is also recommended to offer potential bidders a ‘reverse premium’ of £850,000 as a contribution to a current maintenance backlog.
Swindon Link will be hosting a public debate about the future of Lydiard Park and House on Monday 15 February.
Speakers will include representatives from Friends of Lydiard Park, The Labour Group and Swindon Borough Council and will start at 7pm at Swindon Link’s offices at Arclite House in Hillmead. Please follow the link at the end of this article to get your free ticket for the debate as space is limited.
This comes after Swindon Borough Council revealed in the autumn that they were asking for expressions of interest to take on a lease of the site as they can no longer afford the subsidy due to Government cuts.
The council has confirmed that, even if no expression of interest has been made before the cabinet meeting, organisations will still be able to put in a formal bid after that time and they will let people know the process for that.
So far nine different organisations have come forward to run the site in whole or in part including a bid by its current staff, which The Friends revealed they will be supporting at the end of a public meeting attended by 600 people which was held at Lydiard Park Academy on 12 January.
The Friends were formed in 1962 and are an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard. The house and park was bought by the Swindon Corporation in 1943 for the people of the town.
Councillor Garry Perkins, cabinet member for Economy, Regeneration and Skills, said: “As a council we are having to make some very difficult decisions as we simply do not have the money any more to carry on as normal.
“Let me just make it very clear. We are not putting Lydiard up for sale. It will still be owned by the people of Swindon. Everyone will still have the same access to the house and gardens and the heritage will be preserved but it needs to be made financially viable by a third party for it to continue.”