Transforming Mayo’s county town into a thriving hub

Castlebar could well be on the cusp of a transformation.

The recent Covid-time successes of Market Square sees people fill its weatherproof chairs at all hours of the day, showcasing the necessity of a public realm within the county town.

Yet, more must be done to make Castlebar a truly inviting and dynamic place for both residents and visitors.

Traffic congestion along key routes and a lack of pedestrian access to public plazas are challenges that must be addressed. A thriving town centre must offer safety and accessibility to all.

The revitalisation of the old grain store in Staunton's car park is a promising step towards a more attractive and functional town centre.

We need to explore ideas like the previously planned proposed conversion of this unique three-storey building into a themed pub, which would have breathed new life into the heart of Castlebar.

Castlebar, as it stands, resembles what sociologists call a 'doughnut', with a significant portion of its workforce residing outside town limits.

A recent study showed that 70% of workers in this town live outside the town.

The Market Square car park proves this fact. It is an essential hub for shoppers, commuters and workers, but after 6 p.m. it often lies idle for hours on end outside of peak business hours.

It's time to reimagine this space. Let's make it a versatile area that comes alive as a car park by day and a night-time public plaza.

Imagine concerts, festivals and outdoor gigs bringing life to the heart of the town, conveniently close to bars and restaurants.

This multi-modal approach can provide an events space by night and a car park by day.

Government funding for town revitalisation is available, and it's time to unleash innovative ideas to make Castlebar more attractive.

Let's build on the rich history of the 1798 festival and invite big-name acts to our town for concerts.

Last week, Trim's Puca Halloween festival hosted renowned bands, showcasing the appeal a town can muster when a plan is put in place. The Waterboys, Charlatans and Damian Dempsey serenaded Royal County citizens.

In Ballina, they are embracing innovation by creating public plazas and innovation hubs in their market squares.

Castlebar received funding in 2019 at the same time to improve the military barracks and transform the old post office into a youth centre.

However, it's evident that the initiative of local businesses and entrepreneurs moves faster than local bureaucracy. The grain store could well be vital for progress in our county town.

The time for change is now, and the town's future will be brighter than ever.