An illegal encampment of caravans at one of Castlebar’s most popular tourist amenities caused outrage among nearby residents and local elected representatives this week.
The entourage of caravans, camper vans and other vehicles arrived at Rehins Wood just outside Castlebar on the Newport Road on Tuesday evening and completely took over the carpark and entrance to the recently developed walk. However, on Wednesday night the majority of the group left that area and relocated to a site beside a car garage on the Turlough Road.
Local Labour councillor Harry Barrett has called on the gardaí to visit the site and inspect every vehicle for tax, insurance and a valid NCT. He told the Mayo Advertiser the Gardaí and other state agencies must move immediately to deal with this unauthorised campsite. He has also notified the town council and suggested that customs officials should check the fuel regulations for each vehicle.
An outraged Cllr Barrett who has received numerous phone calls and representations since the caravans moved into the vicinity of the town, said: “If this was the Barrett family, or any other local family parked illegally on a public amenity, I would expect this level of action by the State.
“Castlebar Town Council has spent an absolute fortune on providing this wonderful amenity for the benefit of many in Castlebar and all over. I do not want it destroyed by the behaviour of the few inconsiderate people. Action must be taken now.” He has hit out at Mayo County Council for not putting in place a “multi-agency” plan to deal with this sort of illegal parking by what he described as “holidaymakers”. “Castlebar, Mulranny, Achill and Knock are suffering every year without respite. Without rules and regulations you have nothing,” he said.
Fine Gael councillor Eugene McCormack dubbed as “totally unacceptable” the arrival of the large number of caravans and vans at the Castlebar beauty spot which does not have any sanitation facilities to cater for a campsite of this nature.
Cllr McCormack said the nature of the illegal and unauthorised camping posed a serious road traffic issue beside a busy thoroughfare.
He expressed his anger that local people were “very upset and worried” about the situation and the many people who normally use the walks were prevented from doing so.
Cllr McCormack has called on the town manager Seamus Granahan to use every means at his disposal to address “this unwanted event” and has insisted that a mound and a barrier be put in place to prevent a recurrence. “This is a totally unacceptable situation and has to be rectified as soon as possible,” he added.
The Rehins Wood development will form part of the Westport to Turlough extension of the Great Western Greenway and is located adjacent to Lough Lannagh, one of Castlebar’s other beautiful natural amenities.
The issue of illegal campsites has escalated in Mayo since the start of the month with independent councillor Michael Holmes speaking out earlier this week about a similar situation at the popular Mulranny beach last weekend.
Cllr Holmes told Midwest Radio news that the beach was completely taken over by the unauthorised parking of a large number of caravans and vans deterring other visitors to the area as a result. He said it had a very damaging effect on local business that lost out on much needed revenue as a result.
A similar situation occurred in Achill the previous weekend, Cllr Holmes pointed out, and he said a solution to the problem needed to be found. He said business groups and community organisations should collaborate with Mayo County Council to find a solution to the unauthorised parking of caravans across the county which becomes more prevalent in the summer months and especially the month of August. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 caravans parked illegally in Mayo at present.