July 29 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, July 12, 2014
A three-year saga to transfer control of Clare Country Park could soon be over after its town council was offered a £225,000 deal – but doubts remain over whether an agreement can be reached.
Suffolk County Council has made its best offer to date in the negotiations with Clare Town Council, with the county looking to offload ownership and management of the park.
Its current offer is more than double the £100,000 it originally put on the table, but chief negotiator and town councillor Keith Haisman is to go back to the county and bargain for more after a meeting on Thursday.
Mr Haisman said the town council still had concerns over a “clawback clause” where the county council wanted 50% from any future sale of assets on the site, as well as the difference in approach to the country parks in Brandon and Clare.
Brandon Country Park was to be passed on to Brandon Town Council, but negotiations broke down.
The county council now owns and runs the park, aided by financial contributions from Forest Heath.
Mr Haisman also said that while it was a “significantly better offer”, £158,000 plus VAT of the money would have to be spent on already identified improvements to the railway buildings.
Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, the town’s county councillor Mary Evans said she was “disappointed” the town council still had reservations.
“The Clare negotiating team have driven a very hard bargain, and the package Suffolk County Council is offering has gone up from an initial offer of £100,000 to a proposal made last Christmas of £126,000 and now to £200,000 plus extras,” she said.
“All this is against the tight financial constraints under which Suffolk County Council is operating these days.
“I do appreciate the concern locally about the need to protect the town council from future risk, but I believe this offer does that.”
Should the park be transferred to Clare’s control, a board of trustees will take it over and are likely to bid for as much as £1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
A newsletter and questionnaire will be delivered to homes next week seeking residents’ opinions, while a public consultation and meetings are scheduled for the next few weeks.
Visit www.clare-suffolk.co.uk for more information.