Anger at council U-turn over apartment plan for popular Clare Antiques warehouse

Clare Antiques and Interiors.

Clare Antiques and Interiors. - Credit: Archant

A change of heart by the county council in its support for a housing scheme has upset the owners of an antiques warehouse in Clare.

Chris and Carmel Marchant are asking permission from St Edmundsbury Borough Council to turn Clare Antiques and Interiors into nine flats, with parking for residents at the adjacent Clare Castle Country Park Trust car park.

However, initial backing from Suffolk County Council’s highways department has now been withdrawn, following a letter from trust chairman Geoffrey Bray.

In the letter, Mr Bray states Mr and Mrs Marchant have four parking permits valid until June 5, 2018.

“We inherited this arrangement from Suffolk County Council and while we of course will abide by their terms there is no intention of renewing them when they expire,” he said.

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The trust signed a 30-year lease for the park from Clare Town Council last year, after it was handed over by the county council. Mr Bray and the other trustees say the income from the car park is “critical for the financial viability of the trust” and they did not believe the car park should be used for residents as off-street parking. They also suggested it could be locked overnight in future in an effort to combat “drug-takers and those who drive here and indulge in mindless vandalism”.

In light of this, highways said the park no longer offered a long-term solution for residents’ off-street parking and if no alternative was found it would have to recommend refusal.

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Mrs Marchant said: “Why should the planning department take note of any papers about future possible ideas? Surely they have to take the position of the car park as it is today?”

There was uproar on social media after it was suggested in Mr Bray’s original letter if a permit for residents was still to be continued, it would need to be around £500 a year to protect the trust’s income.

This led Mr Bray to send out a letter reassuring people there was “no intention in the foreseeable future of increasing the cost of the permits for those who work in the town or for those who visit the park on a regular basis”.

However, Mrs Marchant has written to the town council, claiming the lease states access to the car park must be allowed at any time, accusing the trust of “false representation”.

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