Lydiard Park Heritage Trust has handed in its completed bid for the running of Lydiard Park and House to Swindon Borough Council – two days before the official deadline.
Organisations had been 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.
This comes after six months of intensive work by the trust to complete the bid by the July deadline. The bid was put together after the council announced that they could no longer pay the £458,000 a year to run the house and park and would be putting it out to tender to a private company or community organisation in whole or in part.
Trust chairman Mike Bowden handed in the bid in person to council representatives today (6 July).
He said: “This bid is the culmination of lots of hard work by each and every member of the trust over many months.
“We are sure that it is the best bid out there and answers every single one of the criteria put forward by the council for the running of the house and park.
“There has always been massive public support for Lydiard to stay in the hands of a community group rather than a private commercial company and we are hoping that this is the first step in us being able to provide that.
“Our bid will ensure that the access, landscape and house are protected for future generations at the same time as making it a viable site through improved catering, events and facilities.
“We’ve got a great team behind the bid. We’ve got people that have run big businesses, that are qualified curators, that have run similar houses and trusts in London – we’ve got professional surveyors, lawyers and accountants.
“Our business plan does not include the construction of hotels, funfair rides and dopey things like that. It is a bid that will safeguard Lydiard for many years to come.”
Because the council has agreed that the lease for whoever takes over the site will in all likelihood be more than 25 years a moratorium under the Localism Act 2011 has been triggered that states that a community organisation should be given a chance to put together a bid for a community asset being leased for more than 25 years.
Community organisations have until 3 August to put forward an expression of interest and this will trigger a six month delay to the process.
The heritage trust has revealed that it plans to separately put in an expression of interest that will trigger the delay before the deadline.
Mr Bowden added: “The only thing that we are disappointed with is that we were promised that a full structural survey would be carried out on the house so that we could ascertain what exactly the costings would be. A survey was carried out but it did not include the costings at all so we are still none the wiser,
“We have had to put several caveats in our bid to make sure that we do not get landed with a huge structural maintenance bill as a result of this and that the council will be liable for those types of things.”
The council had already said that it will be making available a reverse premium of £860,000 to take care of any work that needs doing but it is not known what the structural bill for anyone taking over the site could be especially with concerns raised over the integrity of the south tower.
It is thought that only two out of the nine expressions of interest were for running the whole site and they were Twigmarket, which run Broome Manor, and the aforementioned charitable trust bid. The other bidders were for parts of the site like the conference centre, catering facilties and car parking.
A rumoured separate ‘staff-led’ community bid has not been confirmed yet.
The inaugural trustees of Lydiard Park Heritage Trust are :
Mike Bowden (Chair) – Former FTSE 100 Managing Director and Company Secretary and currently Chief Executive Officer of Swindon Speedway
Per-Axel Warensjo (Vice-Chair) – Former Finance and HR Director within the technology sector and currently a local Parish Counckl chairman and Chief Financial Officer of Swindon Speedway
Kevin Fisher – Swindon resident for 54 years, with a background in electronics engineering, and a former employee of a multinational technology company where he held various European level management roles. Currently chair of the Shaw Residents’ Association
Sarah Finch Crisp – Former Director of Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, and previously Head of Heritage at Swindon Borough Council who led The Lydiard Park Restoration Project in the early 2000s
Richard Howroyd – Chartered Accountant and procurement professional with significant public/private sector experience. He has lived in Swindon for over 15 years. He is currently Head of Strategic Procurement & Commissioning for a local authority which is world renowned for its heritage expertise.
Gary Bond – Managing Director of McArthurGlen responsible for the development of retail space across Europe and Canada. Before that he was responsible for the Swindon Railway works redevelopment (one of the largest regeneration projects in the UK).This role and his work at McArthurGlen has involved extensive work with listed buildings.
Daniel Rose – Leads market research for the National Trust and is actively involved in Swindon’s voluntary and community sector where he has been the vice chair of Voluntary Action Swindon, chair of Swindon Youth Partnership and has led many local heritage and culture related projects. Currently he is chair of The Mechanics’ Institution Trust and sits on the Swindon Heritage board.
To express an interest in becoming a trustee, contact Mike Bowden
Picture by Calyx Pictures – Lydiard Park Heritage Trust presents their bid
From left; Daniel Rose, Per-Axel Warensjo, Sarah Finch-Crisp and Mike Bowden