There have been some strong calls for action on derelict and vacant buildings in small town Mayo.
Unsightly, uncared for, shopfronts are stymying any chances of a recovery in rural economies, according to some elected members of Mayo County Council, who are appealing for a package of commercial incentives to attract retailers, boost footfall, and revitalise streetscapes.
At a recent planning policy meeting of Mayo County Council, Councillor Damien Ryan pointed out that the number of derelict buildings in Ballinrobe is “alarming” for a town of its size.
“We need action on this,” he said. “We need more resources to tackle the problem. It is time to look at putting some sort of a pilot scheme in place to see how we can get more movement on it.”
Councillor Ryan said there is alot of frustration in towns like Ballinrobe and the council are not dealing severely enough with properties which are on the derelict sites register.
The Tidy Towns Committee in Ballinrobe has been working tirelessly on the issue and has made considerable progress with many buildings, however, there are still some problem sites which are an eyesore and could even be posing a serious public health risk.
Tim O’Sullivan, treasurer of Ballinrobe Tidy Towns, said there are 16 buildings registered as officially derelict in the heart of the town.
“It is not fair on the town and it is not fair on people who have done work to put their buildings in order,” he said.
He pointed to one or two buildings where safety is a growing concern.
“You look at some of these buildings and wonder if it’s only a matter of time before the roof lands on the ground. It’s dangerous,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan commended many building owners for the work they had done so far but he also appealed to all owners to take responsibility for their premises and put them in order.
Councillor Gerry Murray is calling for a government scheme which incentivises owners and retailers to refurbish and reopen town centre buildings.
He outlined how the Living City Scheme, operating in Limerick, Waterford, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny and Dublin, gives anyone who refurbishes a home or business premises built before 1915 a 100 per cent tax refund on all money invested over a period of seven to 10 years.
“I’m disappointed a similar scheme wasn’t announced for small town Ireland,” he said. “It wouldn’t solve the problem but it might encouarge some [retailers] to come in.”
Meanwhile, a voluntary group in the county town, Love Castlebar, has been recruiting members of the public to help give the town centre a facelift by cleaning and painting derelict and vacant buildings.
The scheme has proved to be very successful so far.