LYDIARD Park could be put in the hands of a specially formed trust, following an angry debate at Thursday’s council meeting.
The future of the historic site has been the centre of much contention following claims from the Labour Group that there are plans to sell it into private hands, which the Conservatives have vehemently denied.
A Tory motion criticised the actions of some councillors in making the statement and said a report should be prepared looking at how to preserve the park while reducing its dependence on public money.
Among the options on the table was putting the park into the hands of a trust, which Labour have said is not the responsible thing to do.
Council leader David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick) said: “The position at the moment is the park is subsidised to a significant extent. In a time when the public purse is stretched it is the responsible thing to look at ways to reduce this subsidy.
“I can categorically say we are not looking to put the park in private hands and I don’t think there is any member in the chamber who would support that decision.
“If a trust is the way forward then I will support that and even if keeping things the way they are is the way then I will support “In the leisure and culture programme we said we would look at ways to increase the commercial viability of Lydiard Park and I have no idea how you make the leap from that to selling it into private hands.
“I have to say I am very disappointed with some of the actions of councillors who have been saying we are selling it off as though it is fact.”
Labour have criticised the move and said putting the park out of the council’s hands is not a sensible move.
Group leader Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said: “I am very concerned about the Conservatives’ idea to transfer Lydiard Park and Lydiard House to an unknown trust and I think it has justified the campaign to keep Lydiard Park and House under council ownership.
“Setting up a trust would, in effect, be transferring the park away from the council and is a terrible idea because who is better placed to manage Lydiard Park than Swindon Council?
“And also we have no idea who this trust will be, nor who the trustees of the group will be, nor any guarantees that this trust will follow the same approach to Lydiard Park management as the council have taken.
“Lydiard Park is used and enjoyed by tens of thousands of residents every year and it is a fantastic public asset for Swindon residents. People will rightly be asking, as Lydiard Park is such a success, why does anything need to change?”
Council officers will now look into the future of the park and report back later this year.