Plans to make Lydiard Park more sustainable could move a step closer next week when Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet decide whether to approve Lydiard Park Heritage Trust as the preferred bidder to take over the running of the popular park.
The community group scored highest out of five bids received by the Council and, if councillors endorse the trust as the preferred bidder at next week’s Cabinet meeting (16 March), further due diligence will take place before a Business Transfer Agreement and Lease is agreed over the next six months.
The Council’s Cabinet agreed last year to invite formal bids to run the park with the aim of reducing the Council’s annual subsidy and ongoing maintenance for the popular attraction. Over the last two years, the park has cost the Council around £460,000 a year to run.
The Council received three full-site bids, two from Community Trusts and one from a commercial operator, as well as two part-site bids. The full-site bids satisfied all of the criteria set out by the Council.
Both the Trust bids, which are seeking a 50-year lease, scored higher than the commercial bid, and put forward detailed business plans which would remove the Council’s subsidy through improving the hotel and catering on the site, while retaining the historic fabric of the park and sympathetically enhancing the offer at the House.
The two Trust bids are confident of securing the necessary start-up funding and would wish to work with the Council to clarify the extent of backlog maintenance, and have proposed to fund an additional structural survey to do this.
However, although both bids have relative advantages in certain areas, the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust scored highest on the heritage expertise of the core team as well as the record of key Trustees in accessing Heritage Lottery Funding.
The Lydiard Park Heritage Trust anticipate that it would be in a position to take over the operation of the House and Park in early 2018, which would allow sufficient time for staff to transferred under TUPE regulations from both the Council and Chartridge Limited, which currently runs the hotel on the site.
Exploring commercial opportunities for Lydiard Park formed part of the Council’s Leisure and Culture Commissioning Change Programme, which resulted in the successful leasing of the Borough’s leisure and golf facilities. This secured a sustainable future for these important facilities, which are no longer reliant on subsidies from the Council.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Lydiard, said: “This has been a long, thorough and fair process and I am delighted we are now in a position to present a preferred bidder to take over the running of Lydiard Park and House.
“Lydiard is a key asset for people in Swindon and we need to ensure it has a sustainable future within the Council’s ownership. I would like to thank all the bidders for the time, effort and passion they have shown throughout the bidding exercise. We had two very strong bids from both the community trusts, but ultimately the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust came out on top in the scoring.
“If Cabinet decide to endorse the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust as the preferred bidder we still need to conduct detailed due diligence to ensure we preserve this wonderful park for generations to come.”