Last week Arklow & District Chamber hosted a very popular public presentation by Simon Wall, Westport Town Architect in the Arklow Bay hotel. As the Town Architect to the Town of Westport Co Mayo for almost two decades; Simon is responsible for the built environment as part of the Town Management team. The idea for Arklow Chamber to host a talk on the Westport experience was sparked by a discussion between Gerard O’Brien of the Woodenbridge hotel and Minister Simon Harris and won immediate and universal support from members of Arklow Chamber and Arklow Municipal District.
Simon presented an inspirational talk on Westport’s holistic approach to Town Planning and heritage over the past two decades which was followed by a lively Q and A session hosted by Ann McGovern, President, and Arklow & District Chamber. The audience were keen to find out more and offer support for follow up meetings and engagements which will shortly be announced.
The evening’s large attendance included all AMD Councillors, many County Council Officials, local and nearby residents, sports clubs, Tidy Towns, Traders, Multi-national companies, Tourism officials, SMEs, Service suppliers and many volunteer groups throughout Arklow. It was great to welcome a local Wicklow Minister of State Andrew Doyle, TD who took a keen interest in the evening as well as Pat Casey, TD and Stephen Donnelly TD who all participated in the discussion during the evening. Brendan Martin, the County Librarian, was very proactive and promoted the use of the Meeting Rooms in our new state of the Art Library for the working group to book future meetings which is a marvellous new facility for the town.
In recent decades, Westport has experienced its largest building programme since Georgian times, from Section 23 tax designation, through the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years to the present day, during this period the town has won many accolades including: three national Tidy Towns wins, and was in 2012 assessed by The Irish Times to be ‘The Best Place to Live in Ireland’.
The town is also one of 3 nationally designated pilot towns for the department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Historic Towns Initiative, pilot programme.
Westport has recently been designated a national ‘Smarter Travel’ demonstration town, through competition, by the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport, this entails a cycling infrastructural spend of €5 million over a five year period.
The Town is a pioneer in the development of urban and rural greenways, including the international award winning 45km Great Western Greenway linking the town to Achill Island.
It was clear from the discussion on the night that the people of Arklow who have endured many building, flooding, traffic disruptions and general tail-backs inconvenience over recent years require more design thought from the Council and Planning Authorities and so the necessity to develop an architecturally driven “Town Design Statement” is compelling especially as we see the result for a town like Westport. Such a document would inform future town planning decisions holistically for the long term development of the town, its heritage and amenities and ensure that Arklow with its rich industrial heritage becomes a very desirable place to spend time…in fact the best place to live in Ireland!
If you would like to help please contact Kay or Anetamat firstname.lastname@example.org and we will let you know of the next steps involved to have your say.