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Old Westport convent could become apartments for older people

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STATE OF DISREPAIR The old Convent of Mercy site in Westport. Pic: Michael McLaughlin


Affordable housing also earmarked for Convent of Mercy site

Anton McNulty

The old Convent of Mercy site in Westport will be turned into apartments for older people, while affordable housing will be built on part of the 4.4 acre site.
The site was bought by Mayo County Council in 2008. The vision for what may finally become it was outlined to councillors at a recent meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District.
The Director of Services with responsibility for housing, Simon Shevlin, told councillors that the council is currently in talks with a housing body.
“We have an approved housing body onside with us in relation to the convent itself. They have done an evaluation and assessed the whole site, and a plan in play which is a multi-million-euro project to develop apartments for older people in the convent site,” he explained.

Fallen into disrepair
Mr Shevlin said the project will be based on similar projects already delivered in Sligo, Westmeath and Limerick, and he is confident of support from the Department of Housing when it comes to funding.
“It is quite expensive, but there is a few areas we will cover here. It is not just a housing project. It is a dereliction project and a regeneration and heritage project. It is important that we support this all the way through and the department have supported us so far.
“We are putting in our submission in the next couple of weeks with the approved housing body. There will be some negotiations regarding a price but there has been a positive outcome so far,” he explained.
Mr Shevlin explained that the only affordable housing scheme available to the council is the Serviced Site Fund. Should the council be approved to apply for more funding in the future, Mr Shevlin said, it will apply to build 20 to 25 affordable houses on the convent site.
Currently in a state of disrepair, the site has attracted vandals and anti-social behaviour since the council bought it more than 12 years ago.
An older plan proposed by the council will see the old school on the grounds on Altamount Street converted into civic offices and the construction of a new library to the side of the building.
The land for the Convent of Mercy was given to the Mercy Order of nuns by Lord Sligo in 1842 and was their home until June 2008. It comprises the large convent building, as well the convent chapel and extensive gardens.

School woes
The old Scoil Phádraig building on Atlamount Street was not part of the council’s purchase but was later acquired by the Department of Education as the location for the new Holy Trinity NS.
Last December, it was revealed that the Department of Education had submitted proposals to locate the new Westport Educate Together National School on the same site. The proposal was opposed by the Holy Trinity Board of Management and a number of local councillors.
At last week’s special municipal district meeting, Cllr Christy Hyland said he was informed that the old Scoil Phádraig building has now become a den for drinking and drug taking, and he called on the Department of Education to give the go-ahead for the long-awaited Holy Trinity School.