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Cong set for facelift

Cong set for facelift as Village Design Statement is revealed

Austin Garvin

The first meeting of the Claremorris Electoral Area Committee for 2013 held last week received a detailed presentation on the draft of the Village Design Statement for Cong Village. The comprehensive and all-embracing presentation was delivered by Deirdre Cunningham, Heritage Officer, Mayo County Council and Noelle Angley, Architects Office, Mayo County Council.
The meeting heard that the aim of the Cong Village Design Statement is to ensure that future development and change will have regard to the unique attributes of Cong and its historical context and contribute positively to the future of the village.
Every aspect of Cong Village is touched in the statement, with recommendations to remedy areas that require attention and development to meet the modern era. 
The Cong Village Design Statement came about as a result of Cong Tidy Towns Committee seeking the advice of Mayo County Council regarding community led village improvements.

Community participation

In order to ensure community participation in the preparation of the Village Design Statement, public consultation was carried out. Representatives of the local community met with Mayo Council’s Cong Village Design Statement steering committee on a number of occasions to discuss the preparation of the Village Design Statement.
The Village Design Statement identified that Cong is located on an isthmus (a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas) connecting Lough Mask and Lough Corrib on the Mayo/Galway border.
The statement also identifies that tourism provides much of the improvement in Cong, albeit seasonal, although recent years has shown trends towards all year round tourism.
Ashford Castle and the ‘Quiet Man’ museum have played a role in attracting tourists to the area. The statement goes on to identify the many key defining features Cong has to offer including, its island location, karst topography and associated features, woodland, the Abbey and associated buildings, bridges, ‘Dry Canal’ and locks, cottages, market cross, old mill, the quiet man cottage and Ashford castle and grounds.

Natural assests

The statement refers to the natural assets of the village; island setting, close proximity to Lough Corrib and its islands, the surrounding river and walkway, natural limestone topography, underground rivers, springs/pools (The Risings) and caves, forested area on the western side of the village.
During the public consultation exercise the community identified the following local community needs; a public playground, a community centre (although plans have been drawn up for a centre outside the village), more variety of shops so as to reduce out of town shopping, a pedestrian bridge from the car park recently constructed by Mayo County Council.
As Cong is an island it is recommended that it needs to face its watery perimeter with the creation of a pedestrian path along the entire, or almost entire, perimeter of the island of Cong that would not only identify Cong as a unique island village but it would  also offer a walkway of unparalleled  beauty.
The restoration of the Old Corn Mill is seen as a priority citing the fact that it is a Protected Structure and important industrial heritage building. It also says that funding for this may need to be multi-faceted. Arts, Sports, and/or Tourism grants should be sought for its restoration in conjunction with the ‘Structure at Risk’ fund and other possible Heritage grants (when available).
The statement goes on to list the potential uses of the building which are interesting and varied.
Mr Seamus Granahan, Director of Services welcomed the plan and complimented the people responsible for its creation.

‘Heritage Capital of Mayo’
Cllr Damien Ryan referred to Cong as the ‘Heritage Capital of Mayo’. He said there will be submissions after the statement is put on public display. He said this was a unique opportunity to get funding into the village and he spoke on upgrading the Hatchery in conjunction with the Inland Fisheries Trust.
Cllr Patsy O’Brien said Cong was one of the best and most beautiful villages in Ireland. He complimented everyone involved with the Statement.
Cllr Richard Finn said the council should support Cong as the gateway between Galway and Mayo, and said it should be developed as a tourist friendly environment. He said Ashford Castle was a world renowned hotel and the Mill would be a serious addition, and would benefit everyone.