With just one hurdle to overcome before Clare takes over the ownership of its country park, the details of how a £1.5 million Heritage Lottery fund (HLF) grant will enhance its future prosperity have been revealed.
The park is in the process of being transferred from its current owner, Suffolk County Council (SCC) to Clare Town Council - with the former giving the latter £317,500 as part of the deal.
All that is currently required for the switch to be finalised is for the Charity Commission to approve the registration of the trust (made up of six trustees) that is going to manage the park for the town council.
With the legal transfer nearing its conclusion, the trustees elect are now putting together a bid for the HLF grant, one that they aim to submit by the end of June, with a decision expected about three months later.
The chairman of the trustees elect, Geoffrey Bray, emphasised the importance of getting the grant.
He said: “We want it to be something that helps businesses in the town. We want to make sure it has a link with all the societies and associations in the town to make it a catalyst to make Clare a much more interesting and exciting place to visit.
“We want to make the park just one part of what makes Clare an exciting and interesting place to work and live in.”
The grant will help to protect the heritage of the park, particularly the castle walls, motte, moat and ponds that have been neglected and need significant improvement.
De-silting the ponds and moat will alone cost almost £200,000, but once done the trust intends to put by money each year so that when the task needs repeating 25 years later they have the funds to do so.
The grant will also enable a wide range of other improvements to be made to the park, making it more of an attraction and therefore able to generate the income needed to cover the estimated £100,000 a year upkeep costs.
Among the many ideas are putting interpretation boards in the park to explain more about its history, making more of the walks by linking them to other footpaths and refurbishing the old goods shed to make it into a building that can be let out for conferences or to local groups.
The trustees also want to tidy up the old railway station and make it look more like a station by laying some track and maybe putting in some static carriages that could potentially be used for small exhibitions or as a café.
Almost 120 people have signed up to work as volunteers in the park and regular working parties, usually of at least 50 people, have already gone out on more than ten occasions to carry out maintenance and tidying up jobs.
He added: “People say, can you sustain it and I think if people enjoy it we can sustain it as there are people interested in the park.”
If the HLF grant is approved, it will be paid in two instalments.
One will for the ‘development’ stage, which covers visitor attractions, structural engineering, architecture, land surveys, archaeology and marketing.
The second instalment is for the ‘delivery’ stage - the physical work in the park - and the trustees hope to start this in January 2017 with the main developments by December 2017, with the remainder completed by December 2019.