THE Harry Clarke windows in St Mary’s Church Ballinrobe could be the tourism draw that the town needs.
That is according to urban designer and landscape architect James Hennessy of Paul Hogarth Consultants (town planners), the creator of Ballinrobe’s new ten-year Public Realm Plan.
Mayo County Council appointed Paul Hogarth Consultants in 2016 to devise the plan, the first of its kind in Mayo.
The consultants have been working on the plan, set to be launched next month, for the past year, alongside various stakeholders in the community, including businesses, organisations and schools. It is hoped the plan will address such issues as first impressions of the town, traffic management, parking strategy and vacant and derelict buildings.
Speaking at the recent meeting, Mr Hennessy described the level of derelict and vacant buildings in the town as ‘staggering’.
He said that the Public Realm Plan is important as it shows people what can be achieved, and can in turn attracts investment. He also said it should encourage building owners to improve their structures.
On reviving the centre of the town, he underscored the importance of encouraging people back to live in the centre of the town and ‘revive resident population’.
The Bowers was described as a ‘special unique feature’ of the town, and one that should be developed with ‘appropriate activities’.
“Money, we need money. We’re on the outside of the region, and we’re being overlooked. We can’t do anything without money,” said one local woman.
Mr Hennessy responded that the key is to deliver ‘one plan really well’ in order to get ‘buy in and investment’.
“Also, we can’t forget to shout about it; if we have a really good project here, we need to let people know about it,” he added.
Welcoming the plan, local historian Averil Staunton, told The Mayo News that the town’s Harry Clarke windows had the potential to draw international visitors.
Ballinrobe has one of the largest collections of Harry Clarke stained-glass windows in Ireland.
“Any museum in the world would give their left arm for one of these windows,” said Averil, who’s book ‘Harry Clarke’s Liquid Light’ focuses on the stained-glass of St Mary’s Church.
Ms Staunton is currently in the process of rewriting her book, making it available on audio and Kindle, and creating an app to allow visitors to take a tour of the windows themselves.
“It could be a significant tour stop,” said Averil, adding that the Public Realm Plan will be a ‘wonderful document’ when launched.
A workshop on various elements of the plan, including tourism, branding and a Greenway network plan, will coincide with the launch, the details of which have yet to be finalised. People interested in getting involved are also welcome to attend.