THE three party leaders in Swindon Council have each committed to not selling Lydiard Park in the future.
It follows a row which erupted last week after claims from Labour that there were plans to sell the historic site as part of the council’s leisure and culture programme.
This was quickly and strongly denied by the Conservatives, who say it is a proposal which has never been on the cards or even discussed.
The Labour Group launched a petition last week which they said people could sign to safeguard the future of Lydiard House and prevent it from being sold into private hands.
This was met with an open letter on Monday signed by every Tory councillor and prospective councillor stating a determination to secure the long term future of the house and gardens, through an increase in commercial activities such as wedding hire and the cafe.
Now the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have each committed to keeping the house in council ownership.
Coun David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick), the leader of Swindon Council said: “Lydiard is not and has never been considered for sale. “Senior Labour councillors know this, and are involved on the council’s working party which is discussing the difficult questions of how to come up with sustainable futures of the town's parks and heritage facilities. They cannot plead ignorance.
“Our ambition is for there to be more commercial and charitable activities happening at Lydiard so that we can increase both visitor numbers and income, meaning the park is much less reliant on public subsidy. “It is a subject which has not ever been considered and if it ever comes up there are now 29 Conservatives who will object to it.”
The Leader of the Labour Group Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said that keeping Lydiard Park under the control of the council would be a key part of any Labour administration.
He said: “I am delighted to commit that any future Labour administration will keep Lydiard Park and house under Swindon Council ownership.
“Lydiard Park is one of the greatest features of Swindon, used by thousands of people throughout the year and the fact it can be enjoyed by everyone as it is a public space is something Swindon can be proud of.
“What’s more, I can commit that there will be no sale of any of Swindon’s other country parks under Labour.”
Coun Stan Pajak (Lib Dem, Eastcott) believes it was a scare story. He said: “It has never been a subject up for discussion nor should it be. Lydiard Park is such an important part of Swindon. Getting rid of it is something we would never consider.”