Proposal to change Clare park lease changes sparks dispute

Platform One Cafe is situated in the heart of Clare Castle Country Park. Picture Mark Westley
Platform One Cafe is situated in the heart of Clare Castle Country Park. Picture Mark Westley
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Proposed changes to the lease arrangement at Clare Castle Country Park (CCCP) has sparked a dispute which saw tempers erupt at a town council meeting last week.

Divisions within the council were on show at a packed Old School Community Centre last Thursday, relating to a request by the CCCP Trust to adjust the lease to meet the requirements for their application for £1.5 million in grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

It was due to be considered at the meeting, but a vote to defer the decision until July, so councillors could seek more information and legal advice, was unanimously approved, after a motion was put forward by chairman Paul Bishop.

However, tensions flared over the contents of a flyer handed out days before the meeting by concerned residents, including two town councillors, alleging the lease change, if approved, would see Clare residents’ ownership of the park relinquished.

This claim was rejected by the chairman of the CCCP Trust, Geoffrey Bray, and by a majority of councillors, who accused colleagues of “shameful behaviour” for circulating “misinformation”.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Bray dismissed accusations of a ‘freehold giveaway’ as nonsense, stating the CCCP Trust was not seeking to change the basic nature of the lease, and the proposed changes were the minimum the HLF would accept, so it had the security it needed to be able to provide the grant.

“The ownership of the park will remain with the town council at all times. There is no question of the freehold passing to the trust or anyone else,” said Mr Bray.

“The statement in the recently circulated note that the trustees now need control of the freehold is totally untrue.

“The sort of malicious disinformation mentioned above breaches the right of the trust to quiet enjoyment, as set out under Section 22 of the lease.

“The courts treat this as a serious matter.”

Steve Kimminau, one of the councillors who helped distribute the flyer, said after the meeting that, in his view as a private citizen, there had been an apparent attempt to rush the issue, and time was needed to research the implications of the lease change.

“I believe this whole issue must have been known about months in advance, and could have been discussed at leisure if there was openness and transparency,” he said.

“It is in the interests of everyone to get to the bottom of the decisions that need to be made.”