Five new trustees are elected to Clare Country Park’s board

Clare Country Park trustees. From left: Gary Brown, Charmain Hawkins, Derek Blake, Richard Smith, Sh

Clare Country Park trustees. From left: Gary Brown, Charmain Hawkins, Derek Blake, Richard Smith, Sharon Benson, Geoffrey Bray, Keith Mison, Kate Terry - Credit: Archant

New trustees have been elected to manage a recently divested country park in west Suffolk.

A group of initial trustees had been running Clare Country Park since ownership was handed over from the county council last March.

The Clare Castle Country Park Trust is an independent charity which has responsibility for the day-to-day management of the site’s green spaces and woodland, the children’s play area, the car park, the listed railway buildings and the castle remains.

Since the takeover, dilapidated buildings have been refurbished, the house and office areas are already let and generating income, and the former goods shed has been refurbished and is available for community use for meetings and seminars.

In December, residents of Clare had a chance to stand for election and to take the park forward to its next stage of development.

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Five new people were elected to make up the board of trustees alongside three of the existing trustees who were re-elected.

Geoffrey Bray, current chair of trustees said: “We have a specific range of skills and experience necessary to manage the park professionally and I’m delighted at the team which has now been brought together.”

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The elections were managed jointly by Clare Town Council and the existing park trustees in order to ensure that all residents were able to participate. Each of the trustees has a specific brief. Sharon Benson will oversee finance and legal, Derek Blake will co-ordinate activity planning, Geoffrey Bray’s brief is business and Gary Brown will manage health and safety.

Meanwhile Charmain Hawkins will be responsible for the park’s historic buildings and ancient monuments, Keith Mison’s remit will be green spaces, Richard Smith will oversee history and heritage, and Kate Terry education.

Paul Bishop, chairman of Clare Town Council, said: ”Taking on the park and buildings that had been neglected for so many years and required so much improvement was always going to be a challenging task.

“Refurbishing the buildings, clearing many of the green spaces and upgrading the park infrastructure at the same time as preparing a Heritage Lottery Fund bid and involving the community in future plans for the park was a huge achievement by the initial trustees and volunteers.

“Although there is still much to do for the new board of trustees, particularly in terms of clearing the waterways, the park now offers space and facilities to be proud of.”

The park and the Clare Park Centre are available for hire by community and private groups, and the trustees hope they will be able to attract many visitors to enjoy the Castle remains and waterways, the listed railway buildings and the play facilities for young children.

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