Castlebar’s built heritage has been neglected and a significant amount of work needs to be carried out to buildings on some of the town’s streets, according to Mayo County Council’s Heritage Officer Ms Deirdre Cunningham.
Ms Cunningham made her comments in a reply to a notice of motion submitted by Labour town councillor Harry Barrett for the June town council meeting.
Cllr Barrett was calling on the council to fund a historic town trail in conjunction with the town enhancement scheme. He also called for the council to apply to have Castlebar designated as a heritage town.
While Ms Cunningham agreed that the heritage of Castlebar should be highlighted and “the wealth of heritage in the town promoted”, she explained that Fáilte Ireland are no longer developing heritage towns and the concept is no longer supported by Government departments or the Heritage Council.
“Castlebar has a wealth of heritage that should be promoted and marketed; it’s history, its ecclesiastical architecture and municipal buildings, the many beautifully composed town houses, streets and shops, and the Mall. All of these aspects would form the basis for a worthwhile historic town trail,” Ms Cunningham has outlined.
While the Heritage Officer has welcomed the town enhancement scheme as a positive development, she said a significant amount of work needs to be carried out to buildings on Main Street, The Mall, Spencer Street and Thomas Street in order to restore some semblance of their former selves.
According to Ms Cunningham these streets have suffered from “inappropriate interventions, including superfluous advertising/signage and poor general maintenance”.
It is the Heritage Officer’s opinion that Castlebar would benefit from having a number of streets and areas in the town designated as Architectural Conservation Areas to protect their historic character and content and this would give more statutory means to control advertising and lack of maintenance.
Funding totalling €300,000 is available under the Environment Fund 2011, however, the June 15 deadline for submission has passed this year.
Cllr Barrett, who thanked Ms Cunningham for her report and reiterated that the council needs to do more to protect the town’s heritage, also expressed an interest in the available grants.
“We will need the input of those in the town with a particular interest in heritage issues to step forward to help with the implementation of whatever actions we decide to take as local councillors. I will be taking to Deirdre over the coming weeks to plan for what needs to be done to save and protect what we have left and how best to display our rich historical heritage for ourselves and tourists alike,” added Cllr Barrett.