Plans to develop the railway goods store in Swinford were met with approval by the four local councillors this week.
Mayo County Council, who purchased the semi-derelict property in 2001, intend to “sympathetically” refurbish and extend it for use as a public library and cultural centre.
The council’s plans were advertised in October and 13 submissions were received from the public. Mr Paul Benson, senior executive officer with Mayo County Council, said when complete the development will lead to a “serious regeneration” of the Station Road area.
As well as providing a book lending facility, the new library will also act as a cultural centre for the town with a seating capacity for 150 people in the 3,000 sq ft premises.
Thirty parking spaces will also be provided in addition to the spaces currently available at the adjoining county council offices.
The submissions largely welcomed the development but the main concern highlighted by neighbouring residents in the Carrowbeg estate was about the lack of pedestrian access across the railway line.
In reply the council have outlined that it is the responsibility of Iarnród Éireann to provide such an access as they own the property surrounding the track and the company have retained sufficient land to provide such an access. Mr Benson said Mayo County Council would support the installation of a pedestrian access but this would need to be initiated by Iarnród Éireann.
Funding for the project is expected to be realised through a grant from the Library Council, whose CEO viewed and was enthusiastic about the project last week.
The local councillors also committed €130,000 social and economic funding to the project back in 2001 when the council purchased the building, which is also still available.
If the funding application gets the green light the council expect to go to tender very quickly. The project now needs ratification by the full council at their meeting on January 12.
The proposal was given the thumbs up by Cllr Eugene Lavin who said it was great to see such a proposal being mooted during these economic circumstances. He added that the concerns of those who made submissions must be taken on board.
The facility is badly needed, was the sentiment of Cllr Gerry Murray who said the current library is totally inadequate. He welcomed the project as long as it doesn’t impede the opening of the Western Rail Corridor.
According to Cllr Jimmy Maloney the project will be a “great boost” for Swinford during the year ahead.
Committee Chairman Cllr Joe Mellett explained that the building was part of the heritage of Swinford but had been lying idle for years. He said he was delighted to put the social and economic fund into it.
The county manager, Mr Des Mahon, who was attending his first electoral area committee meeting in Swinford on Wednesday, said he was confident they would secure the necessary funding to proceed with the project and gave a timeframe of 12 to 15 months for completion once the project commences.