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Time for delivery

Traffic in Ballinrobe
CHOC-A-BLOC Pay and Display has been introduced but the lack of a bypass means Ballinrobe’s streets are still laden with traffic. Grianghraf: Cormac Ó Cionnaith

The people’s agenda Ballinrobe
Time for delivery

Liam Horan

BALLINROBE, says David Hall, is ‘the town politicians forgot’. David is chairperson of Ballinrobe Community Development Council and he is furious with how the town has been treated in recent years.
“Ballinrobe needs a bypass very badly. Jobs are being lost because of the lack of proper roads infrastructure. Last year, Mayo County Council and An Bord Pleanála turned down planning for a massive hotel, leisure and retail development because of what it would add to the traffic problems of the town,” says David.
“That cost the town 300 jobs and a huge spin-off. How many other jobs are being lost for the same reason? How many others have said they wouldn’t invest in Ballinrobe because of the problems with traffic?
“Yet, we are told by the National Roads Authority that the bypass is 20 years away. That’s just not good enough.
“Every politician who comes to Ballinrobe for this election will be asked when they will deliver a bypass for the town.”
A number of public meetings have been held to highlight the bypass issue, and David says his committee will ‘step up our campaign’ in the run-up to the General Election. He didn’t rule out taking to the streets in protest.
“We circulated a questionnaire to local people before Christmas, and top of the list of priorities in the results was the bypass and traffic management,” he adds.
He accepts that the introduction of paid parking in the town has improved the flow of traffic through the town, but the bypass remains ‘the critical piece of infrastructure we need’.
Other issues sting in Ballinrobe, too. One parent spoke of ‘the absence of places and things to do for young people – for teenage discos, for example, they have to travel to Castlebar and Ballyhaunis’.
David Hall complains that the town ‘hasn’t got a fair crack of the whip’. He adds: “When decentralisation was being planned, we barely got a mention. When there was talk of gas coming to towns in Mayo, we were overlooked again. We don’t seem to be in the sight line of any politician.
“If I was a cynical man, I might even say there’s a campaign to keep Ballinrobe down. Houses are being built in huge numbers and there are no facilities with them.
“There is no swimming pool in the town, no cinema. There are no facilities for young people. The Town Development Plan has not been updated since 1999, despite the massive changes in the town in terms of the growth of housing.
“How many jobs have the IDA ever brought to Ballinrobe? The IDA factory on the Kilmaine Road has been vacant most of the time since it was built, and is vacant at the moment.
“You have some new business developments in the town, but you also have shops closing.”
The absence of a major hotel is acutely felt in Ballinrobe, which is why last year’s decision to turn down the proposed development by local businessman Pat Duffy still rankles.
“Surveys have shown that as much as €40m leaves the town each year in weddings, dinner-dances, and other parties and functions,” says David.
“The town needs more jobs too. In some estates in Ballinrobe, I would say about 60 per cent of the residents are commuting to the likes of Galway, Castlebar and Westport every day. We need more employment in the town.”
It’s clear from the views of the people on the streets of Ballinrobe that their patience has run out. They want delivery on key infrastructural project and the onus is most definitely on the next Government to come up with the goods.

The people speak

1 Eva Klemjatica and Roseanne Waldron
“Ballinrobe badly needs a hotel, a swimming pool, and a cinema. It would be great if some local business people could come together and build a hotel. That’s what happened in Claremorris with the McWilliam Park Hotel and that seems to be doing very well now. So many things have to leave Ballinrobe because of this.”

2 Peter Walkin
“I believe the town needs more jobs. I would hope politicians would push Ballinrobe’s name to the fore, and use their contacts to attract jobs to the town. I am not looking for a major employer because that can create a dependency on one plant. But some place with about 80-120 jobs would have a huge impact on Ballinrobe. I think politicians should make the creation of jobs a priority for Ballinrobe.”
3 Richard Langan
“Ballinrobe needs a bypass. It lies on a busy route and the amount of traffic that passes through it each day is incredible. A bypass would free up the town and benefit those who want to come into the town, and do business there. You’d be amazed at the traffic jams in the towns some evenings, particularly on Fridays. A bypass would have huge benefits.”

4 Gay Munroe
“The town needs more sporting and leisure facilities for women. For example, on a Sunday afternoon, when your husband is gone golfing or to a football match, you’d like to go for a swim, a jacuzzi, a treatment, or a massage, but you’d have to travel to Westport, Castlebar or Galway. It would be great to have a leisure development in Ballinrobe that would incorporate these facilities.”