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Westport Civic Trust denies ‘sitting on hands’ over bank garden

Westport Civic Trust denies ‘sitting on its hands’ over bank garden

Anton McNulty

Westport Civic Trust has strongly denied that it is ‘sitting on its hands’ in relation to the Westport ‘bank garden’ and say that negotiations between the owners and themselves are ongoing.
The future of the 18th-century walled garden, located behind the former Bank of Ireland building on the North Mall, was raised at last month’s meeting of Westport Town Council by Cllr Ollie Gannon. The councillor said he felt that keeping it as an open space was a mistake because nothing is being done with it and it has become a derelict site.
However, members of Westport Civic Trust, who lobbied the Town Council to rezone it and keep it open, said that while they too are alarmed to see the garden become increasingly derelict, it was wrong to say nothing was being done with it.

Restoration plans
Iris Galloway, Secretary of the Westport Civic Trust, told The Mayo News that they have been in negotiations with the owner and with valuers to assess the true value of the garden ­– a process that has taken more time than they had hoped. She said that they were looking at ‘serious fundraising’ to buy the garden, but were determined to restore the garden to its ‘former glory’.
“We have been in negotiations with the land owner and valuers to get the real value. The gap between what he is looking for for the garden and what our valuations have shown is taking time to bridge. We had hoped the negotiations would proceed rapidly but it has taken a bit of time and our hands have been tied. We are not doing this for ourselves; we are a community group trying to do our best to get an amenity for the town,” she said.
The future of the bank garden became a contentious issue when the town council was preparing its development plan in 2009. After many delays, it was finally decided to zone the garden 75 per cent ‘open space’ and 25 per cent ‘town centre’.

Community amenity
The garden, approximately one acre is size, has become overgrown in recent times. The Civic Trust plans to restore the historic gardens as an amenity and says that a number of other community groups in the town are strongly behind them.
Iris Galloway pointed to the fact that the Civic Trust was instrumental in preserving the Old Railway Walk, which has become one of the most successful amenities, and she feels the garden can be a similar success.
“Not only would it prove of great benefit for the entire community, it would also attract a great many tourists, especially at a time when ‘green’ is the name of the game. So we will persevere in our efforts to secure this special garden for the community of Westport” she said.