Park transfer still on despite legal glitch

Geoffrey Bray and Keith Haisman are still working on a plan that will soon allow the park to be pass

Geoffrey Bray and Keith Haisman are still working on a plan that will soon allow the park to be passed from Suffolk County Council to the town of Clare. - Credit: Su Anderson

Plans to transfer ownership of a west Suffolk country park to the local community are set to go ahead next month in spite of a last-minute legal hitch.

After more than four years of negotiations, Suffolk County Council agreed to give the town of Clare £315,000 to take responsibility for Clare Castle Country Park.

Around £158,000 of that is to be spent on the renovation and upkeep of the buildings at the 35-acre site, including the remains of an “Ancient Monument” castle and two listed Victorian railway buildings.

However, the final handover has been further delayed because the county council wanted a “claw back” clause included in the legal contract stating that if Clare Town Council decided to sell one of the railway buildings in the future, the county would receive half of the profits.

But Clare town councillor Keith Haisman, who has been central to the park bid, said they had no intention of selling the buildings so were seeking an alternative clause.

The county council has already spent £15,000 set aside for legal fees and Mr Haisman said he was keen for the transfer to proceed as soon as possible to avoid any further legal costs, which would have to come out of the agreed £315,000.

He said: “I am now confident that the one issue that has been a sticking point is going to be resolved and the project management company that will be supervising the work on the buildings is poised to start on March 1.”

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Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “We continue to work closely with the town council towards finalising the transfer of the Country Park.

“The county council is making a substantial contribution which includes funds towards the town council’s legal costs.

“Both parties are working together to keep these costs down to a minimum. We remain fully committed to this venture and are working towards the final completion of the transfer of the park.”

Around 120 volunteers have already signed up to help look after the Clare Castle Country Park.

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