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Harnessing a rich legacy for the future


MAKING PLANS Tim Husbands, MBE, Chief Executive Officer for Westport House and Hotel Westport. Pic: Keith Heneghan 

Masterplan for development of Westport House and Hotel Westport expected next month

Áine Ryan

THE rich legacy of the Browne family’s long ownership of Westport House and Estate will be a cornerstone for harnessing its development into the future by its new owners, the Hughes Group. Speaking to The Mayo News last week, the Chief Executive of Westport House and Hotel Westport, Tim Husbands thanked the Browne family for ‘the significant job they did in maintaining the historic house and its 400-acre estate’.
He cited the fact that so many stately homes had closed down over the decades but the late Jeremy Browne, his wife Jennifer and their daughters ‘had a vision to develop the house and estate’ which the new owners would now carry forward in a bid to reposition Westport as a tourism town in the region.
Westport House’s direct access to the town is an important feature too, he said, noting that very few such houses boasted such a proximate place within an urban environment. The gates are open for local people to walk through the grounds, he said,  and with Westport already being a town and destination  promoting healthy lifestyles and fitness, the plan to develop the new resort  as ‘a heritage and well-being’ centre is appropriate to the town and wider area.        
Nottingham native, Tim Husbands MBE recently moved to Westport from Belfast where he was instrumental in developing the Titanic Belfast (TBL International) as an award-winning  destination for internationals as well as national visitors. After his appointment last November he told The Mayo News: “The Hughes Group made a compelling case for this new challenge. We will take the next six months or so to work through the process of prioritising the varying aspects of the plans, which involve a series of capital projects. They will contribute to the development of Westport and the west of Ireland as a tourism destination.”  
Three months later, Husbands has begun ‘the assessment stage’ of the €50 million project. When completed, it  will encompass a state-of-the-art resort, complete with museum, conference and event centres.
“We are in the process of making a planning application for the development of the hotel, which will involve an additional 80 rooms and a conference and events centre with space for 900 people,” Tim Husbands said.
Mr Husbands and the teams at Hotel Westport and Westport House are also in the process of developing a masterplan with a draft version projected to be with Mayo County Council by the end of March. This will involve the integration of the hotel with the estate.
“Of course, this has to be a very sensitive development respecting the ambience of the environment and its heritage,” he told The Mayo News.
He is examining a plethora of possibilities at the moment including, for example, the redevelopment of the farm buildings, the coach house, the Italian garden.

Traffic management
SUCH huge plans clearly involve infrastructural and traffic management considerations, Husbands said, responding to Mayo News questions.
“This is a very big planning process involving many stakeholders. Mayo County Council has been extremely supportive and given great guidance and has made its heritage experts.  available. We have to look at different ways we can access the Quay and are talking to the county council about that,” he said.     
“I am already very proud of where I work and proud of the project. I have inherited great teams in both the house and the hotel. They have a lot of passion and commitment and have started to work together. The Hughes family is very much committed to investing in the future and to ensuring the sustainable development of their native town and its environs,” concluded Mr Husbands.

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