Clare: Town council favoured for takeover of country park

THE future of an historic Suffolk country park remains uncertain after two separate management plans were presented to the county council.

Clare Country Park is owned by Suffolk County Council and managed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council. But due to budget cuts, the county asked for proposals from groups interested in assuming ownership and management of the park.

Clare Town Council and Clare Country Park Users Group both put in different bids and a decision was expected last Friday. However, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, Judy Terry, said: “Whilst we felt both proposals had merit, the plans from the town council demonstrated more widespread public support and therefore potential for success.

“We have asked both organisations to consider working together for the benefit of the park and its users.

“We have also asked the town council to come back to us with some additional details and costings. Therefore no decision has yet been made on which organisation will take over the park. We hope to be able to announce soon the next stage, following further discussions with both organisations.”

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Town council chairman Keith Haisman said their proposal had been formulated after extensive local public consultation and had the backing of groups ranging from the Dedham Vale AONB to Suffolk Wildlife Trust. He said a further meeting with the county had been arranged for the end of the month, adding: “The issue under discussion is that Suffolk County Council has offered a fixed sum as a contribution to bring the park buildings into a state of repair, but the town council has undertaken a detailed assessment of the likely actual financial costs and this figure is higher than the contribution proposed by the county council – this is the only sticking point.”

He hinted that the council could be willing to work with the users group at some point, adding: “Once we have been appointed as preferred bidders, we will be happy to talk to any group which supports our vision and the town council.”

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Linda McPhee, of Clare Country Park Users Group, said the county had indicated that it was happy with several of the ideas in their management proposal. She said they would work with the town council to preserve the park and its buildings for public use, adding: “We need to sit down with the town council and talk to them about where we agree and which things need more discussion. We have contacted them today to ask when we can start working on this together.”

The user group’s plan included reinstating a resident park warden, and ‘heritage listing’ the park’s old railway buildings.

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