Skip to content
Landing page show after 5 seconds.

Is Westport losing its welcome?

De Facto

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

Most noticeable at the Quay in Westport is the number of campervans overnighting alongside the plethora of signs prohibiting them from overnighting. It begs two questions: Why isn’t there a suitable venue for overnighting campervans? And why introduce such signage when it is not enforced? (Is it that the local authority regulations associated with such signage might be invalid?)
So many people are heeding the national call of taking a staycation. As a tourist town Westport welcomes all visitors, yet we are not catering properly for campervan crews. This is a business opportunity for someone.   
There are no designated (disabled) parking bays at The Point. It seems strange that a newly created parking area would not be legally required to have designated parking, especially when developed by a local authority. People with disabilities are also entitled to use facilities with the utmost ease and entitlement. To claim that blue badge vehicles can park anywhere misses the point. This could be resolved very easily with a little political will.  
Why does Fáilte Ireland, while encouraging the staycation, still keep the Tourist Office closed in Westport town centre? Meanwhile, volunteers (and CE Scheme staff) keep tourism offices open in Achill (Keel and Achill Sound), Newport and Mulranny. Fáilte Ireland offices are like pubs while voluntary tourism offices serve food – welcomes, information and supports. All that’s happening in the Westport Tourist Office is the flowering of the friendly ferns on the fascia.
One welcome development in the town centre is the upgrading of the lights on the Carrowbeg River. They have always added to the town’s beauty and attraction. The new set will continue to do so. Credit to Michael Moran and his electrical crew and to Cllr Christy Hyland who have been central in heading up this rejuvenation project. Lights will ease the winter nights.
One wonders if the ‘fountain’ in the centre of the Mall could either be renovated or removed. Its current status is lonely. One can only imagine that it would be an attractive feature if working as it was intended to, bursting out all over.
Some people question the wisdom of maintaining the artificial ‘island’ on the North Mall, outside Bridge House. Its vegetation appears anything but attractive, say some, while others welcome it as an example of biodiversity on the Mall.
One of the most contentious issues that will emerge is the proposal (agreement?) to install parking meters around the town. This issue was part of previous discussions when parking charges were being proposed. This time around the issue appears to have passed the acceptance post at council level without any public consultation.
Such ‘street furniture’ would certainly change the local landscape. There was a lot of talk previously about ‘heritage town status’ which very quickly seems to have disappeared. Was the agreement to reduce annual/monthly parking charges for workers from €200 per year/€20 per month to €150 per year/€15 per month the ‘trade off’ with councillors to introduce parking meters?
The traffic problem is still an issue. There are those who see the traffic queues on Bridge Street and James Street as a badge of honour. “The town is busy,” they claim. Not exactly! It would be busy if all those cars were parked and the people in them were shopping. It’s hard to spend anything while stuck in cars.
The Castlebar Road Tourist Trail is also very popular. This is where we keep people in their cars crawling at a snail’s pace as they enter the town from Sheeaune. They enjoy the view of Clare Island and Croagh Patrick, the immigrant alpacas, the Tyson-like new N5 machinery, reminisce about the romance of what was The Starlight Ballroom and daydream about the benefits of Botox beauties. Pass the Park, Carrowbeg Stores and wait your turn at the obedient traffic lights. Ah! The lights! They stop everyone; equality, not equity.
You weave through the streets and marvel at those wondering if there is an increase in plastic shop signage throughout the town. Westport’s heritage status demanded higher standards and developed an extremely good working relationship between council officials and business people.
People ask the questions because they care about their town.