Plans to put the running of Lydiard Park and House out to tender could be delayed by six months in order for a community bid to be put together.
Organisations were originally asked to submit their formal bids by early May, but that deadline was put back until early July so that structural surveys on the house could be carried out.
Now the council has agreed that the lease for whoever takes over will in all likelihood be more than 25 years. This has triggered a moratorium under the Localism Act 2011 that states that a community organisation should be given a chance to put together a bid for community asset being leased for more than 25 years.
Community organisations now have six weeks to come forward to put in expressions of interest to run the site. If one does they will be given another six months to assemble their bid.
If none come forward the current process will continue and a final decision of a preferred organisation to take on the heritage asset will be announced in September.
The current process will still be able to continue in the background and if a six month moratorium is confirmed the council would still have the power to choose whichever organisation it feels would be best for the future sustainability of the site whether they are commercial or not.
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.
Potential bidders have also been offered a ‘reverse premium’ of £850,000 as a contribution to a current maintenance backlog.
The Lydiard Park Heritage Trust, who have put together a community bid for management of Lydiard, released a statement on the potential six month delay, saying: “We are heartened to see that a 6 month moratorium is now in sight when private sector bidders for Lydiard must wait in the wings and allow community bids to make their best case to SBC
“The primary goal of The Trust has always been to stop Lydiard Park falling into the management hands of any private sector organisation and today‘s news is not only extremely welcome, but can be heralded as a milestone in our efforts.
“We are confident that since ours is a wholly independent and not for profit charitable trust, managed by very experienced professional and committed local people, our proposal will provide the best way of preserving Lydiard House and Park for current and future generations.
“The Trust wishes to build on the growing political consensus and will continue to work hard to help take party politics out of the equation.”