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Dereliction an embarrassment - Flynn


'WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO WESTPORT?' Cllr Peter Flynn said visitors have noticed the increase in the level of dereliction in Westport.

Oisín McGovern

THE scale of dereliction and vacancy in Mayo has been labelled ‘an embarrassment’ by Westport county councillor Peter Flynn. Mayo currently has 9,166 vacant residential properties – a statistic branded ‘phenomenal’ by Flynn .
Speaking at the monthly meeting of Westport-Belmullet Municipal District, the Fine Gael councillor said that vacant properties in Westport were ‘becoming a very sorry sight’.
According to the 2022 preliminary Census results, 12.6 percent of residential properties in Westport town are vacant. This was slightly below the county-wide vacancy average of 13.3 percent.
There are currently 36 vacant residential properties registered in Westport, with nine sites on the Derelict Sites Register. Of these nine sites, five are housing sites and four are vacant plots which have been assessed as viable by Mayo County Council.  
A recent survey by Geo Directory revealed that Mayo had rate of 13.5 percent of the state’s derelict houses – the highest of any county in Ireland.
Cllr Flynn welcomed new schemes aimed at incentivising the refurbishment of vacant properties but said the county had ‘failed very badly’ to deal with the issue.
“While we talk a great game in Mayo, I’ve seen no delivery in our particular part of the county in particular,” he said.

‘Terrible situation’
Cllr Flynn also lamented the lack of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) taken by Mayo County Council to bring vacant properties back into use. Last year, the local authority acquired four properties by CPO.
“People have this image in their head of Westport as the place to be. But I’ll be honest with you, Westport is becoming a very, very sorry sight,” he said.
“I met a couple last week who hadn’t been in Westport in eight years. They are a business couple in Ballinasloe. They didn’t know I was a councillor, and they said to me ‘What has happened to Westport?’. I assumed they were talking about the number of businesses that were closed…they said, ‘No. We’re talking about the number of derelict properties in your town’.”
Cllr Flynn called on the local authority to appoint a regeneration officer and a director for the Ukrainian war response officer, to take on some of the work for the council’s Housing Department.
“In some ways, I think Mayo is becoming an embarrassment in relation to some of our towns and villages,” he added.
“We’ve allowed too much vacancy and dereliction, too many vacant properties to continue, and until we really go and send a signal to the wider community that we are going to take this seriously, we are in a terrible situation.”
Cllr Christy Hyland, Cathaoirleach of Westport-Belmullet Municipal District, highlighted the number of vacant properties on the Castlebar Road on the main entrance to Westport.
“[Visitors] getting off the train on a Friday evening, and the first impression coming down from the train? The convent. Coming in by car, the first impression coming down Castlebar Street? Dereliction all the way from the traffic lights down,” Cllr Hyland said.

In 2022, the Repair and Lease and Croí Cónaithe schemes in Mayo had 181 and 281 applications, respectively.
A total of 19 Mayo properties have been brought back into use under the Repair and Lease scheme. Those eligible for this scheme can avail of an interest-free loan of up to €60,000 to repair and refurbish their house.
The Croí Cónaithe scheme allows successful applicants up to €30,000 to refurbish a vacant property and up to €50,000 to refurbish a derelict property.
Fifteen Mayo properties have been approved under the scheme since it was introduced last year.