A new carpark for Clare? It might be possible.

I addressed Clare Town Council this evening on the subject of trying to get a town center carpark. I have been working on this for months and am trying to bring as many people as possible along with me. I’m sure I won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time but ……..

See below for what I had to say:

“Clare car park Town council 15/12/2022

As you all know, there has been a need for a Town centre carpark for some time. In fact for years. There have been a number of attempts to deliver this much needed carpark but so far without success. I have been working, with Marion and a senior WSC officer to put in place a plan to deliver a carpark and I want to share these thoughts with you tonight.

There are three things required to deliver a car park, Finance, a location and the political will to deliver one.

I believe now, for the first time, we have all three things available.


Let me turn to the money first. Last year in the West Suffolk Council medium term budget we managed to get £100k put in for a carpark in Clare. The was a first and very welcome. Since then we have pressed and been awarded a further £50k. This is money without strings attached. A grant as an investment in our community. West Suffolk want to support our community but have no intentions of interfering in the current ownership and management of any carpark land. £150k is a lot of grant money but won’t cover the plan so it is proposed that revenue from the new carpark will be used to pay back the additional amounts. When this has been paid back future revenues will go straight to our community. So in short, funding will not need to involve the Town Council or the local community.


Many locations have been considered before and dismissed for various reasons. This location is in the centre of Clare and fully accessible and is currently a carpark. The site proposed is where the social club is currently sited. But we have no plans to get rid of the social club, far from it. The current social club building is coming to the end of its life. There are issues with the roof and sole plate and it need disabled toilets and a kitchen. Remember, this is an ex mod hut from just after the 2nd world war.

The proposal is to knock it down and relocate a brand new building, fit for purpose, as far back on the plot as is possible. This will free up circa 40 car parking slots. The bowls club can remain where it is, undisturbed and can continue to share the new social club building as it currently does the old.

We have challenges not least from Heritage England given the ancient monument nearby. It is true that if we were to propose something like this without the existing social club being where it is, I suspect it would be a nonstarter. But, we now have an opportunity to improve the area, creating a social club fit for purpose and looking a lot better than the existing one. The new one is likely to be a prefabricated wooden building that will only require shallow foundations. I have no doubt extensive archeology surveys and digs will be required but this in itself is an opportunity to attract tourism and perhaps to get the community involved and document what is found. Perhaps the school could get involved.

Heritage England have been helpful so far and have agreed to carry out a reapplication review of what is proposed.

Political will

This is political will with a small P. As you have heard we currently have our politicians and officers at West Suffolk Council ready, able and willing to support this plan for a carpark in Clare. This is a huge benefit because it means I have been able to secure agreement that WSC will help and lead on the project management of this scheme. We will have professionals working with us to deliver. This includes working with Heritage England, planning applications and legal alterations to any of the leases I mentioned before. We have no right to take this support for granted. WSC want to see that our community is largely behind this project as they have no intention of imposing anything. There are three direct stakeholders involved.

The land is the responsibility of the town council but is leased to  the country park. In turn the social club have a commercial arrangement with the country park.

I have met with the social club a number of times and have secured agreement in principle to explore this option more fully. For them, they will get a new social club but will need to share the new carpark with the community.

I have also met with the Country club a number of times. Just last night they met and sent us the following “The trustees of the park believe the proposal has merit and is worthwhile taking to the feasibility stage. We do however have significant concerns that would need to be addressed during this feasibility stage. Primarily relating to Financial Viability, Risk and Protection of Green Spaces.” I completely agree with their statement and we would expect to discuss all these point with all stakeholders as we move through the project.

So I now turn to seeking the approval from the Town council to proceed to  the next step. I have deliberately kept my presentation out of the details. It is the key principle that is required at the moment. There will be plenty of time later to debate all  the details.

Next Steps

If we can get your agreement in principle for this project, and I am not asking you to take a key decision or commit to anything at this stage, merely express a positive view, then WSC will work up some options for the site to present to Heritage England, which remains the biggest risk. This is at the complete risk of WSC. We would also want to carry out a formal pre-application as soon as possible, certainly early in the new year.

I would also like to bring together the key stakeholders into a working group. You might think it sensible to make it a working group of the Town Council but I would like to include business, fire, Country Park, Town council, WSC and the social club as a minimum.  The working group will  be the entry into all the organisations and provide a vehicle to manage the project. There will be lots of decisions to be made about exact location, style, shape and so on. Guidance from our planning officers will help this process.

So, in conclusion, I am asking for the Town Councils support, in principle, for the proposal for a carpark on the site of the existing social club.

Clare Town Council has indicated it’s support. 👍


  1. You deserve all the support we can give you. In agreement with your plan. Thank goodness for your common sense and fairness.


  2. Seems a great idea. The Social Club get a new building and the town gets 40 parking spaces. It is ideally situated in the middle of the town and next to the public toilets, always a good plan. Also the local community would be involved as money’s raised eventually will help the town. Seems a win win situation. There will be bridges to cross but well done for getting this far.


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