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Landmark Ballinrobe property bought by local committee

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ICONIC The Valkenburg building in the centre of Ballinrobe town has been purchased by the local Town Hall committee.

Mike Finnerty

THE acquisition of the ‘Valkenburg complex’ in Ballinrobe for €305,000 by the local Town Hall committee will mean that the new facility ‘will be the beating heart of the community’ once it has been redeveloped, according to committee chairman, Michael Sweeney.
It was announced last Friday evening that the Town Hall committee had been the successful bidder to buy the landmark property on Main Street after an online auction concluded earlier in the day.
The Town Hall committee had amassed funds of approximately €1.6m with a view to developing on a green-field site on the Neale Road in Ballinrobe for a new Town Hall.
The former Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring TD, had announced 14 months ago that €1,050,000 in funding had been approved for the project.
A total of €750,000 of that funding was to come from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with the remaining €300,000 from LEADER.
Those figures supplemented €200,000 that already been allocated by Mayo County Council and almost €400,000 which had been raised locally from community donations.
Planning permission for the hall was granted in late 2015.
However, the Town Hall’s committee’s plans changed in recent months.
“At 3 o’clock today we became the preferred bidders for the Valkenburg complex as we call it now,” Michael Sweeney told an online audience via the Ballinrobe Town Hall committee’s Facebook page last Friday evening. “It certainly is a big day for Ballinrobe.
“At the beginning of this campaign we thought the Neale Road was going to be the beating heart of the community, now the centre of town, where the Valkenburg complex is, will be the beating heart of the community.
“This could not have come about without a very dedicated group of people, who came together in April 2014 and for six years we’ve been meeting and gathering.
“We worked very hard to try and develop a Town Hall of the Neale Road but, fortunately, about six weeks ago the Valkenburg came up for sale so we turned our attention there.
“Today reflects the community response and we will be able to have a facility that the community can be very proud of. And I believe will be a facility that will rival that of any facility in the country, be they art or theatre.”
Seán O’Connell, the Town Hall committee treasurer, admitted the online auction had been a ‘nerve-racking’ experience for all concerned.
“When the electronic gavel dropped at 3pm, we were the successful bidders at €305,000, plus the VAT. So we will, all going well, become the owners of the Valk for approximately €350,000,” he explained.
Cllr Michael Burke, the vice-chairperson of the Town Hall committee, said he was ‘very confident’ that the funding that had already been secured would remain in place for the development of the new premises.
“I’m very confident that the state agencies will stay on board and help us develop this into what our chairman, Michael Sweeney, has called a top of the range facility in Ballinrobe,” he said. “So we’re very hopeful that with local political assistance from everybody, our Councillors, TDs etc, that we’ll have the funding in place for 2021/2022.
“It’s like putting a ticking heart into the heart of the community again.
“From a social and cultural point of view, and the benefit to the centre of the town, this is going to be a major plus. We’re going to have a huge amount of activity coming to the centre of the town.”
The Ballinrobe Town Hall committee is made up of: Michael Sweeney (chairman), Michael Burke (vice chairperson), Siobhán O’Malley (secretary), Seán O’Connell (treasurer), Liam Horan (PRO), Margo O’Shea, Des May and Sheena Duddy.