‘DESIGN WILL BE MORE SUSTAINABLE’ Padraig Philbin, Mayo County Council.
Head of Tourism says new Keem Bay design will respect local environment
THE Head of Tourism with Mayo County Council says any approved design for the Keem Bay Signature Discovery Point on Achill Island will take into account the environmental sensitivities of the area.
Padraig Philbin explained that the Keem Bay project will be part of a more holistic approach to tourism development on the island, with plans also at an advanced stage to develop an indoor facility on the old Village Inn site in Keel.
The discovery point for Keem Bay has been dogged by delays since it was first announced by Minister Michael Ring in 2015. However, tenders were advertised last week for engineering-led design-consultancy services in respect to a new skywalk and structure in Keem Bay.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Mr Philbin said that since the project was first announced in 2015, Mayo County Council and Fáilte Ireland have changed their thinking in regards to the project for Keem Bay.
“The Council recognise that the site is very sensitive from an aesthetic and environmental perspective, and the new design will fit better with the environment there. We have gone back and looked at the site in its entirety, and that means everything from traffic management, access and parking.
“Our thinking has changed, but people shouldn’t be disappointed because it will still be a brilliant project. We will make the design more sustainable to respect the environment which is there,” he said.
The original 2015 proposal was for a covered glass skywalk on Moiteóg Head overlooking Keem Bay. However, it is expected this will not be incorporated in the revised design, which is expected to be more artistic and incorporate the history of Keem.
“For us and Fáilte Ireland it is all about telling the stories of the place rather than a big ‘wow’ structure,” Mr Philbin said.
The old Coast Guard lookout station on Moiteóg Head is expected to be incorporated in the design plan, along with a path up the hill, new toilets and parking close to the beach.
Mr Philbin explained that the funding allocated to the project remains in place, but the money will be spread across different projects on the island.
One of these will be the development of the old Village Inn site in the middle of Keel, which was left derelict after plans to develop a hotel on the site was abandoned in 2005. The new plans will see the construction of a mixed development, including an indoor attraction for visitors to the island.
Terence Dever, the CEO of Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiuíl Acla, said they have been working closely with Mayo County Council on the redevelopment of the site and are looking forward to its progression in consultation with the local community.
“We have been lobbying Mayo County Council for some time regarding the future of this site and are really excited to see progress finally being made. Its strategic location in the heart of Keel and the size of the site will allow us deliver something transformational, not just for the parish of Achill, but for Mayo,” Mr Dever said adding that the project will significantly enhance the tourism experience in Achill.
A public consultation is expected to take place in the summer, giving local people the chance to air their opinions on the Keem Bay project. Mr Philbin added that the Keem and Keel projects, along with the extension of the Greenway onto the island, will be the three main projects that they will look to progress in the near future.