Historic Westport garden sold to private bidder for €500,000
Local trust expresses concern over the future of protected heritage site following the sale
The walled garden in Westport, which has been sold for €500,000. Photograph: Westport Civic Trust
Twenty years after Westport Civic Trust started a campaign to save a Georgian-era walled garden as a public amenity, the heritage site has been sold to a private bidder for €500,000.
That figure is more than double the €240,000 reserve price when it was first listed for auction – but withdrawn at the 11th hour – less than two years ago.
In receivership for some time, the garden’s town-centre site, formerly owned by Bank of Ireland, also includes listed outbuildings in a derelict state.
Despite the fact that the trust had an ongoing fundraising campaign to secure the site as a public garden, the soaring price for the property ultimately proved prohibitive.
The trust had also hoped that Mayo County Council would help to purchase the heritage site, but the local authority already owns the nearby Convent of Mercy site, which it bought in 2008 for €4 million. Parts of the latter buildings are now in a state of dereliction and have been vandalised on occasions.
Michelle Hughes, the chairwoman of the trust, said: “A major concern is that under the existing County Development Plan, the garden and its outbuildings is currently listed as a protected structure, due to its heritage significance.
“However, the new County Development Plan [for] 2020 onwards will allow persons to submit proposals [in relation to it]. We are hoping that this protected designation will continue, since to see this space lost to development would be so disappointing.”
Noting that this was National Heritage Week, she added: “Erosion of our heritage is particularly pertinent for the week that is in it.”
Ms Hughes said: “As of now the only information we have is that a solicitor secured the property on behalf of a client. As an organisation we are extremely disappointed that this town-centre space may be lost to the Westport community forever.”
She thanked everyone who had pledged money and supported the trust’s campaign.
The selling agents advertised the 1.1-acre site as ideal for redevelopment subject to planning permission, citing its prominent location and Westport’s thriving local economy.
A spokeswoman for O’Donnellan and Joyce confirmed on Monday the property was bought in trust for a client by a solicitor after the auction, for €500,000.
Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn said: “I hope whoever has purchased the site will appreciate that it is zoned amenity and it is a protected structure.”
Once a dower house owned by the Browne family of Westport House, a former Bank of Ireland building adjacent to the garden dates from circa 1809.
Bank of Ireland took over the property circa 1838 and a bank manager and his family lived in the house and used the garden. Townspeople still remember buying vegetables there, or sneaking in as children to steal apples.