The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI ) has marked Westport’s 250th birthday with a free public talk and guided walk of the town last Saturday. Led by Simon Wall (Westport town architect ), a group of culture seekers learned about Westport’s urban regeneration over the past two decades, during which time Westport experienced its largest building programme since Georgian times.
Westport is regarded as an exemplar in urban design because it was developed with a strong focus on design as part of the Westport 2000 plan, which provided a forward-thinking development strategy and framework. Westport is a national ‘Smarter Travel’ demonstration town, with €5m invested in cycling infrastructure over a five year period, linking 70 per cent of its residential areas with an independent urban greenway network. The town has also pioneered the development of rural greenways, including the award-winning 45km Great Western Greenway, which links Westport to Achill Island.
Speaking at Saturday’s event Wall said, "Westport is a fantastic example of how a plan-led approach benefits every aspect of the community. The Westport 2000 plan set out specific projects to develop the town’s commercial, residential and tourist base with due attention afforded to its heritage and historic architecture. It highlights the value of collaboration from all stakeholders to ensure the community is always kept at the heart of development.”
Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO, added: “When it comes to sustainable development, we can’t look at either housing or town planning in isolation as both must work together to create a quality built environment that functions in the best possible way for each part of the community, whether that’s residents, business owners or visitors. It’s clear that the expertise and input of architects greatly benefits town planning and development and we firmly believe that an Architect’s Department should be established within each local authority in the country so that all of us can benefit from the skills of Irish architects, which are renowned the world over.”
The RIAI’s celebratory event included a Westport Talk in the Westport Town Hall Theatre and a 3km guided walk of the town from there, which ended at the harbour.