A new chapter has begun in the history of the Lydiard Park estate – following Swindon Borough Council’s decision to hand over its running to the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust.
The decision, which was officially confirmed at the council’s cabinet meeting on March 15, sets in motion a handover timetable which will see the trust ratify employment arrangements with staff working in the park and house and conduct a comprehensive property survey by the start of April.
Chairman of the trust, Mike Bowden said: “We are delighted to have been chosen as the council’s preferred bidder. There was a tidal wave of people who did not want it to fall into private hands and become a commercial project. And the heritage component of our bid reflected local people’s desire to see this asset preserved.
He added: “I can assure both the council and the local people that the hard work of all our trustees will continue, complacency will not be an issue. We have never seen the process in party political terms and we have to thank members of all parties for their support and contributions. The preservation of Swindon’s rich heritage is so important and I hope we have persuaded many that a well organised charitable trust may be a useful template for other heritage challenges in the town.”
Fellow trust member Sarah Finch-Crisp explained that a great benefit of the trust model is that it will allow a total focus on Lydiard Park and Gardens whereas at present it is forced to compete with other council priorities.
“It means that we will now be allowed to ring fence the money that we generate from parking for the use of the estate.”
She added: “We are aware that the vast majority would like to see Lydard retain the qualities that make it such a fantastic asset. We plan to sensitively build on and enhance those qualities rather than making any great changes. We’re taking a steady as she goes approach.”
She explained that the trust will be working to build on commercial opportunities at the park and house, including conference facilities and hosting wedding celebrations,
Trustee Kevin Fisher added that the trust will continue to guard against planning applications that threaten to undermine the beauty of the estate: “Lydiard continues to face external threats and we anticipate further applications for planning consent that would have a detrimental impact on the house, park and St Mary’s Church. We will continue to offer leadership and coordinate well informed objections to any such proposed development.”
For further information about the work of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust log on to www.lydiardtrust.org.uk