Castlebar has a political edge as the home of the Taoiseach but businesspeople in the town are not working together to take advantage of opportunities readily available to advance the town.
This is according to Cllr Ger Deere, former mayor of Castlebar, commenting on an address by town manager Seamus Granahan who, addressing an Open Forum seminar hosted by Castlebar Chamber of Commerce this week, outlined a raft of developments — current, ongoing and planned — all set to improve the offering of Mayo’s county town.
“Anyone would be spellbound to see all the work going on in Castlebar and the town manager has great vision in sourcing out grants and linking in to Westport,” Cllr Deere said. “Yes, the message out there is that Westport is getting everything but it is about working together and that is not happening in Castlebar.
“We have a political edge. We have the Taoiseach of the country. But we have to work together to source grants and there will be assistance there. That is why it is working in Westport because everybody is working there to make projects come along and we need to work together to make Castlebar come along.
“Anything that’s going on in town is of benefit to the town. The Four Day Walks, for example, do great things, but we need to come in as a town to advance that — not to take advantage of it.
“This weekend the mini marathon and the Pink Ribbon cycle is taking place with thousands participating, but I don’t think as a business community we are doing enough to link in to that and we must pull together to take advantage. Lough Lannagh is one of the greatest projects Castlebar has seen and is proving of immense benefit in every way including for the health of our people. I am simply issuing a word of caution to the business community to remind them that whatever they want to happen can happen – if they work together for the benefit of the town.”
During his comprehensive address to the forum, town manager Seamus Granahan outlined plans to link Castlebar to the west with Westport and to the east with Ballina, in order to develop the town as a “linear amenity”.
The plan to make Castlebar a bigger, better, town in every way is being achieved on a piece by piece basis, often supported by the drawing down of matching funding, Mr Granahan revealed, adding that a new sense of confidence had been instilled in the town council after Castlebar succeeded in securing funding for targeted projects from bodies such as Fáilte Ireland, which previously had favoured mainly Westport. The town manager noted that in the four years since his first presentation to the Chamber in 2008, a rash of projects had either been completed or were in progress.
Stating that the function of the town council is to encourage development in town, support business and industry, provide infrastructure, and maintain services and amenities, Mr Granahan added that despite the ongoing recession the council is very busy and new projects yet to be started included the transformation of the old Imperial Hotel into municipal offices and the development of a new Castlebar swimming pool, while plans regarding the recent acquisition of the old Military Barracks have yet to be agreed on.
“A lesson we have learned over the last two years regarding carrying out works to deliver town centre projects particularly, is that most people are unhappy with how long works go on. The problem is that most of the work goes on underground so people can’t see it. This is where the role of Castlebar Chamber has been very helpful in regard to communicating what we are trying to achieve.
Future plans for development of Castlebar town by the local council will ultimately hinge on one major factor, the town manager wryly suggested, noting:
“It remains to be seen whether the town council - and town councils in general - will be abolished under local government reform plans.”