Our beginnings

    Westport Civic Trust was founded in 1999 as a response to the status of the Georgian Walled Garden belonging to the Bank of Ireland. The Garden, along with the Courtyard buildings attached to it (protected structures of Local Importance), came up for sale by the bank in the beginning of that year.

    The Walled Garden, situated in the very heart of Westport, is comprised of almost an acre of land. Until recent times it contained well-kept ornamental beds, bowers and pathways, a heritage orchard, bowling green, vegetable plot, water feature and the remains of a heated greenhouse.

    Although the Bank of Ireland Building itself was listed at the time as a protected structure of National Importance in the Town Development Plan, this magnificent Georgian Garden was not. In fact, it was designated as a car park, which greatly alarmed a few individuals who were concerned that if the Garden was sold to a developer this unique part of our town's heritage would be completely destroyed.

    Around this time the existing town park (where the Leisure Centre now stands) was closed down, and Westport was left without a public park.

    Early that year a few of us began to meet in the back room of Matt Molloy's Pub, with two objectives:

    • to protect and conserve Westport’s last remaining Walled Garden

    • to procure it as a public amenity for the town

    Minutes of our meetings were recorded, although we had no formal structure. Within a short time, our group established itself as Westport Civic Trust, Charity No. 13487.

    The Bank of Ireland then sought proposals from the public. We submitted a presentation, which proposed using the Garden as a public amenity, and outlined multiple projects conceived for the space, including:

    • a sensory garden for the blind, featuring plants with interesting fragrances or textures marked with Braille plaques

    • raised beds which could easily be tended by people with movement restrictions or those confined to wheelchairs

    • a vegetable plot for schoolchildren to learn about horticulture

    • a gazebo for concerts

    • multiple benches to encourage socialising,

    and so forth. We received many letters of support for our proposal from various schools, special interest groups, organisations and public representatives, which we included in our presentation.

    Sadly, our proposal was rejected. Instead, the Garden and Courtyard Buildings were sold to the highest bidder who, to the best of our knowledge, was a local developer.

    Concerned for the safety of the Garden, we petitioned the Town Council to include the Garden on their list of Protected Structures. We called a public meeting, which was attended by over 100 residents, including many Town Councillors, to discuss the future of the Garden. We gathered hundreds of signatures from local citizens. Elections for the Town Council were about to take place, and every single Councillor and candidate for the new Council signed a statement that they would stand behind the protection of the Bank Garden. Unfortunately, these promises came to nought, and the protection we sought was not achieved at that time.

    However, we did not let this deter us from striving to secure the Garden's protection. We kept up a concerted campaign to encourage the Town Council to acknowledge that it was curtilage (lands belonging to or associated with a building) of the protected Bank of Ireland Building, and by rights should also be included on the list of Protected Structures in the Town Development Plan.

    When the Town Development Plan came up for renewal in 2009, we stepped up our efforts by organising a sizable public email campaign calling on the Town Councillors to rezone the Garden from Town Development status to a more protected zoning and to include it on the list of Protected Structures.

    After much debate within the Council, which went on over two evenings and well into the wee hours of one morning, it was decided to rezone 75% of the Garden as Open Space and leave the remaining 25% as it had been zoned. The 25% area left as Town Development has no access, except through the remaining 75%, which is protected from development, though theoretically still open to being turned into a car park.

    To this day we keep a careful eye on planning applications that could have an impact on the Garden and Bank Buildings or affect the heritage and environment of the Westport area.

    We are still endeavouring to obtain the Garden as an amenity for the town. In 2010 we had the Garden valued by two independent agents, and on that basis we have approached the owners twice with offers for the purchase of the Garden. Both times our offers were rejected, and subsequently the property was withdrawn from the market.

    Late in 2012 the Garden, together with the Courtyard Buildings, was placed on the open market. As Westport Town Council was threatened with dissolution in 2014, we appealed to the Council to help us purchase the Garden for the town with their remaining funds. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

    However, we are currently in the process of organising an extensive fund-raising campaign aimed at involving Mayo County Council, local individuals and businesses and anyone with an interest in the town, with the aim of obtaining the Garden and Courtyard for the community of Westport.

    Westport Civic Trust achieved Charity status in 2000 and was also incorporated as a limited company on the 3rd of July 2008. In line with changes in Company Law brought about in 2015, we converted to a CLG, or Company Limited by Guarantee, while retaining our Charity status. We are now officially known as Westport Civic Trust.

    Westport Civic Trust Aims

    Promote and initiate the preservation and protection, renewal and improvement of the buildings and other features of the natural, historical, cultural, scientific and architectural interest of the area, for the benefit of the community.

    Westport Civic Trust

    Westport,
    Co.Mayo.
    Ireland

    © 2018 Westport Civic Trust