Swindon Borough Council has listened to feedback from potential bidders to take over the running of Lydiard House and Park and is extending the deadline for proposals by two months.
Some of the prospective bidders have expressed a wish for more detailed information, focusing on the listed House and other buildings on the site, which will be made available during the process so it can be considered in their submissions if appropriate.
Councillors approved the request which was made through Bilfinger GVA, the independent property advisor appointed to identify a joint venture partner, tenant or tenants for the Council-owned park with the aim to reduce its annual subsidy of £450,000.
The window for bids, which opened in February, will now close on Friday 8th July 2016.
Expressions of interest from national, commercial and not-for-profit bodies as well as local community groups were invited last year, resulting in nine organisations declaring an interest and going on to meet with the Council individually to discuss their proposals in more detail.
Exploring commercial opportunities for Lydiard Park formed part of the Council’s Leisure and Culture Change Programme, which resulted in the successful leasing of the borough’s leisure and golf facilities last year. This secured a sustainable future for 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 private-sector run Lydiard House Conference Centre could also form the basis of potential proposals with the current lease due to expire later this year.
Lydiard House and Park, which has been listed as an Asset of Community Value, will remain in council ownership and £850,000 has been allocated to assist any successful bidder with the current maintenance backlog for the site.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Lydiard, said: “We are committed to both preserving and enhancing the park for the people of Swindon. Helping ensure prospective bidders are as informed as possible about this historic site is important, which is why we’re happy to provide them with the additional detail requested to inform and refine their proposals.
“The range of expressions of interest was encouraging and we look forward to receiving formal bids, which will safeguard a more sustainable future for Lydiard so everyone can continue to enjoy it now and for generations to come.”
Mike Bowden, chair of the Lydiard Heritage Trust which is making a bid welcomed the council’s announcement to extend the deadline. “The process of dealing with the bidding process is both fair and competent.The council is dealing with a series of issues which has caused some delay, the most pressing of which is the structural integrity of the South Tower of the house.
“The trust is confident that it will submit the most compelling bid by 8 July.”
Newly elected councillor for Lydiard & Freshbrook Councillor, Matthew Courtliff, commented: “Whilst the Council is listening to feedback from potential bidders about taking over the running of Lydiard, it needs to listen to feedback from West Swindon residents who voted to not have it run for profit.
“The extension of the deadline for tenders to take over the running of the park will give Lydiard campaigners and I more time to lobby the Council to ensure Lydiard isn’t leased off to a private company and we don’t lose sections of the park.
“However it is odd that the council is offering £850,000 to prospective bidders to cover the backlog of maintenance work without having done a structural survey, which is what they are now committed to doing. It just goes to show the whole Lydiard outsourcing process hasn’t been thought through properly, which is why we need to halt this ill-considered policy.”