County town’s economy is on a go-slow
The property boom in Castlebar has seen a recent downturn and it may be more than a seasonal slow down, says local auctioneer, Frank Durcan of Durcan Property Partners. In the past house prices in Castlebar increased by over 30% annually but this year they have risen by only 4% so far. This should continue predicted Mr. Durcan "but at a very slow pace." While this may be good news for buyers it reflects the lack of industrial investment in the town and is bad news for the local economy. "Big industries are downsizing operations and together with a volatile international market this makes things more uncertain," explains Gerard O’Toole of Sherry Fitzgerald O’Toole one of the newcomers to the Castlebar Auctioneering trade. Instead of investment there were almost 200 jobs lost to the town when Volex downsized their Castlebar operations before Christmas and it now seems that they will not be replaced by a new industry.
Five new auctioneers have set up in Castlebar recently it seems. No doubt they were prompted by the listing of Castlebar as a hub town together with Ballina in the Government’s much vaunted National Spatial Strategy. Now we have 12 auctioneers in town according to the Connaught’s list at the end of the article. (In passing I can’t resist pointing out that coincidentally, there were also 12 auctioneers elected to Mayo County Council in the previous council. Thankfully there are fewer of them this time – perhaps due to the Connaught’s own scolding of councillors before the last election. They very gingerly pointed out that public perception just might suspect a conflict of interest when auctioneers get involved in drawing up county development plans - while at the same time emphasising that they were all honourable men of course).
The Spatial Strategy promised investment in infrastructure and policies that would encourage focussed growth in hub towns like Castlebar and Ballina in order to help them achieve critical economic mass and to stop Dublin sucking the life from the rest of the country like one of Stephen Hawking’s black holes. So property deals should inevitably arise from this new policy and Castlebar as a designated hub might mean a bit of business. Of course then along came Charlie McCreevy who threw the whole thing into the bin when he announced his own half-assed decentralisation scheme which blew the official spatial strategy out of the water with one well-aimed vote-getting shot across its bows. It sank without a trace. His only rule seemed to be don’t select any of the growth centres listed in the Spatial Strategy. Kiss my critical mass ass! If he had thrown darts at the map to select towns he would have selected more of the hubs and gateways designated in the Spatial Strategy than he listed in his budget speech. ‘Parlon Country’ politics at play. Of course Charlie McCreevy himself has now been decentralised – or maybe that’s ‘centralised’ because, funnily enough, people in Brussels actually see themselves as being at the centre of things for some reason. So how will our new and incumbent auctioneers fare under a new finance minister? Will the price of houses go down? Will auctioneers end up drawing the dole? Did you know that there’s going to be a woman priest saying Mass in Castlebar soon?
Volex plant sold for over €5m
The Volex manufacturing plant, Breaffy Road, Castlebar, has been sold for as sum in excess of €5m. It was purchased by local auctioneer, Mr. Brian Moran, who was acting on behalf of a consortium. The selling agents were Sherry Fitzgerald, Galway. Mr. Moran told the Connaught Telegraph he was not prepared to reveal who formed the consortium until all the necessary documents in connection with the sale had been signed.
The Connaught goes on to tell us that Gerry Casey is moving his Turlough Road operation into town to the Volex building plus a furniture sales operation will open there. The rumour that Boston Scientific would open a plant appears to be just that. Certainly plants of the basic manufacturing type such as Volex are moving to China and Eastern Europe and effectively we will never see a large factory of that nature again. The pharmaceutical and health sector with a much greater intellectual/educational requirement are a different prospect. But infrastructure such as roads (see next item), rail and air links are critical here. I think we can forget Intel or Microsoft of Google type firms here in the West until something serious is done about our crumbling telecoms network which is just a laughing stock now – even ISDN lines have not been delivering a full 64kbit/second without constant dropout or interruption. (We can only look on in awe as this week BT offer broadband to 98+% of the UK population by scrapping their existing limit - which was a generous 6km from your house to the exchange - completely and offering broadband to pretty much everyone). Similarly, until the Western Rail Corridor is opened, until there are early and late trains to Dublin, until there is a dual carriage all the way to Dublin such that trucks don’t have to slow down to a crawl whenever they meet on the narrower bits of road – such as those approaching Charlestown from the east and the west – we can forget it.
Fears over €60m. roadway ‘crucifying’ East Mayo community
A major dispute has erupted over the proposed €60m. Charlestown by-pass. Residents of Culmore, on the outskirts of Swinford through which it is planned to run the roadway, are at loggerheads with Mayo County Council over the project. They put forward a strong case at an oral hearing into objections received by An Bord Pleanala to the compulsory purchase orders issued by Mayo County Council to acquire land for the new road. According to the Culmore Action Group, the road proposal, which will split six houses, will "crucify" their community. During the course of the three-day hearing an alternative proposal for an over-bridge to solve the problem at Culmore was examined and deemed feasible. However that could throw up issues in relation to other landowners. Another alternative route was already rejected by the council.
How to weigh the inconvenience to the community of six houses that will be split by the Charlestown bypass versus the deaths and injuries on the existing road? How to compare the economic damage that this stretch of third world road which welcomes you to Mayo on the road from Dublin is doing to Mayo versus the expected ‘crucifixion’ of the six houses in the community of Cuilmore? The current death and injury toll was documented in another local paper report this week on the same hearing. The bottleneck at Charlestown is certainly one of the most serious between here and Dublin. The only section worse was the Scramoge to Tarmonbarry stretch and this has been dealt with in an admirable way even if it’s still not a dual carriageway. I’ve no doubt that the six houses will soon multiply to many tens of new houses all aligned within 20 metres of the new route - once our auctioneer councillors figure out how best to give planning permission without having to face personal penalties from the NRA. Look at all the houses along the Swinford bypass springing up within a few yards of one of the most treacherous junctions in the county? How many people have already been killed at these junctions? Enough to warrant an almost permanent Garda speed trap. So the small six-house community of Cuilmore will soon have many new neighbours all aligned along either side of the new route of the N5 national route. In time of course they too will lose their gardens when safety considerations or EU legislation dictates that all national routes have to be dual carriageways!