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Plea for funding for flagship Castlebar projects

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PIPEDREAM? Former councillor Henry Kenny and Cllr Ger Deere outside the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar back in 2011 when they appealed to Mayo County Council to buy the historic site. The council duly obliged but the site still lies empty with doubts over where funding will be raised to advance the project. Pic: Keith Heneghan

Key developments can help local economy recovery - Condon

Ger Flanagan

A Director of Services at Mayo County Council has urged councillors from the Castlebar Municipal District to utilise any government ‘influence’ they can to help receive funding for proposed works on the Imperial Hotel, The Mall, the old Post Office and the Military Barracks in Castlebar.
John Condon made his comments at last week’s monthly meeting of the district when discussing the two capital projects the council has submitted for under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund. Condon said it is a ‘badly needed investment’ for Castlebar and it will ‘help recover the local economy’.
The meeting heard that the old Imperial Hotel is earmarked as a business innovation hub with an estimated cost of €7 million, while plans for The Mall – which feature an events strategy – have an estimated total cost of €1.25 million. The old Post Office is proposed as a youth resource centre, with a cost of €2 million, while there are also proposals to prepare a masterplan to stimulate private sector re-use and reactivation, which involves a €1.3 million investment.
This part of the plan will be looking to promote and regenerate some of the historic and vacant buildings around the core of the town.
The separate plan for the Military Barracks includes proposals for civic spaces as well as a visitor centre and an all-weather venue for festivals and events.  
A detailed report was before last week’s monthly meeting after Cllr Donna Sheridan proposed a motion at the June monthly meeting on the options for the future use of the properties as well as a progress report on the Barracks.
Cllr Sheridan (FG) welcomed the report, however she pressed the council officials for clarification on the ownership situation of the Barracks, which was not included in the report.

Caretaker agreement
The meeting heard that Mayo County Council have a ‘caretaker agreement’ on the approximately seven acre site of the Barracks, but they will not officially own it until the agreed price of €600,000 is paid to the Department of Defence. The meeting also heard that Mayo County Council are paying nothing on it right now.
The money that will be paid for the eventual purchase of the Barracks will come from the ‘capital account’ of Mayo County Council and not from funding they may receive from the government.
Cllr Ger Deere (FG), a-long term advocate for the Imperial Hotel works, Cllr Al McDonnell (FF) and Cllr Blackie Gavin (FF) suggested that the council prioritise the works on the Imperial Hotel as part of the submission. Cllr McDonnell felt it was ‘unlikely’ that money for all the projects would be received by the council.
However, Condon said that he would not be in favour of prioritising one project over the other. “What’s needed now is money, and lots of it, so I would ask all the politicians and the councillors here to use any influence you can in the government for funding for the projects,” he said.
Cllr Sheridan also suggested that part of the project be put out for public consultation to hear suggestions of proposed works.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne (Ind) welcomed the report but reminded the meeting that ‘funding will decide everything’, while Cllr Cyril Burke (FG) expressed his concerns over the shortage of hotels in the town and suggested that be included in proposals.
Cathaoirleach of the District, Cllr Gavin, highlighted that a number of local charity organisations around the town have been looking for space for a long time and urged immediate action.
Head of District, Iarla Moran, said they were ‘two very exciting projects’ for the town of Castlebar but that it is ‘all contingent on funding’ and ‘if we get the funding, we’re open to ideas’.