Westport Councillors express concerns about slippage on Tidy Towns front

Cllr Peter Flynn

Cllr Peter Flynn

The absence of a report on the Tidy Towns result from the agenda of the November meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District, was highlighted by councillors in Westport at their monthly meeting this week.

Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn raised the issue, saying: "I want to note the absence of the Tidy Towns report on the agenda; traditionally the month after we have the Tidy Towns awards and the reports are issued, we normally receive the update on Tidy Towns and how we did.

"In my view, it is a reflection, sadly, on how poorly Westport has done this year. It is an independent body that is making that overview. It is the first time as long as I can recall, that Westport wasn't in contention for either a regional award or a national award.

"The alarm bells have been ringing for a while and I think this is the clear signal, that we really do need to address the slippage in standards around the town.

"All you need to do is walk around the town. In my old job, there was a thing where, rather than managing from your office, you managed on the shop floor and were down meeting people and listening to people and seeing what was happening exactly and I think we have lost sight of that. I think we need both officials and councillors to be on the ground in this region and viewing what is happening.

"We had a long debate before about the river and The Mall and the islands, but leaving aside the islands, look at The Mall; there are small little trees growing out the sides of the wall, weeds growing out of it. Look at the proliferation of neon and plastic signs that have popped up over the town in the last few years.

"Look at the playgrounds, there is graffiti on them; look at our municipal leisure centre and there is graffiti on it; look at our approach roads into town and there are weeds and briars. I was down at the Quay area at the weekend and looking at the paving area, it clearly hasn't been cleaned in at least a year; you see the cigarette butts and dirt and weeds there that are not weeks and months old, they are years old.

"These are all simple things we can get right without any massive investment of money and just keeping on top of it and watching what is happening and making sure that people are doing the right things as well, both the business and local community, but most importantly, the county.

"From a town point of view we have gone downhill and effectively, the Tidy Towns adjudicators have confirmed that and I think it is really time we woke up to the reality of this."

Independent councillor Christy Hyland agreed with Cllr Flynn, saying: "He hit the nail on the head. If you go on the greenway there is graffiti all over the place, I am getting worried.

"All the organisations and the council working together over the years, brought Westport to an award-winning town. I remember back in the day when other towns, be it Dungarvan or Ennis came up to Westport to see how we were doing things so well. I don't see us getting any requests now. I'm talking about standards."

Cllr Hyland also queried the proliferation of plastic signs promoting one major brewer on buildings around the town and asked was there planning permission needed for them, saying: "Plastic signage in the town, I know that businesses need to promote their business and I support them in that, but what I see is that there is one-size-fits-all signage coming in, with their plastic signage, and throwing it up on a building and driving away' is there planning permission needed, because this kind of signage can be done tastefully - this is a planned town."

He went on to hit out at the amount of graffiti that can be seen around the town, saying: "People are telling us on the ground, they are telling us all, look at the graffiti on the leisure centre, there are parents of children afraid to go to the playground at the leisure centre; that is not an exaggeration and that playground really needs tidying and cleaning up.

"I am sad to say, our standards have dropped, we can work together and get us back to where we were and us working with all the other organisations, we can be proactive and restore the high standards that was set.

"Look at the Mall, biodiversity is one thing but an untidy river, one of the main assets of our town is untidy looking and needs to be dealt with."

Responding to the councillors' concerns, Anne Moore, administrative officer for the council, said: "This year we had five entries in the Tidy Towns across the MD and each of the five entries have improved their marks, so I think we need to extend congratulations to all of them. Lecanvey went up by 12 marks, Mulranny by 10 marks, Louisburgh by four marks, Belmullet by 13 and Westport by six.

"The disappointing thing is that the last year of the competition we had 11 towns or villages entered in it, it is disappointing that we had less than half that number in this year. But we have to bear in mind what everyone has been through over the last two years with Covid and so on, so we need to get the message out there to community groups that we are supporting them and we are actively working with a number of groups in the district - it has been difficult but with a little bit of encouragement from all of us, I think some further towns or villages will be encouraged into it next year.

"In relation to Westport, I know there is an invite for the various environmental groups to meet and the comments you make in terms of the town in general, we take on board, but it is a lot more than just the appearance of the town; there is a huge number of marks and big stakes in terms of environmental efforts and all of the towns and villages need support from us in terms of moving in that direction."

In response to Cllr Hyland's concerns over the plastic signage, Catherine McConnell, director of services for Mayo County Council, said: "In relation to the signage I take it on board and know our district architect has been in contact with some of the businesses who have put up those kind of plastic signs. In relation to us writing to the company, no, we won't; the person we deal with is the premises owner and depending on the building, if it is protected, it may require planning permission, it may not, there is no one size fits all when it comes to planning enforcement and we have been in contact and if needs be, we can move to enforcement."


Page generated in 0.1900 seconds.