Plans to make Skibbereen Town Hall wheelchair accessible have been welcomed, but locals say more needs to be done because the heating system is not fit for purpose.
Following a public consultation process, the Council received three submissions and all of them say that the heating system is a disaster.
Theatre Society members pointed out that the night-rate heaters go off at 8am and by the time a show starts – usually at 8pm – the hall is freezing.
They said that it’s like an ice box in the winter and the audience members who brave it have to get wrapped up well to attend shows.
But the problem doesn’t end there. In the summer it is like a sauna, so what is required is a proper air conditioning system.
The theatre society members also suggested that more loos for ladies are required and that an upstairs computer room – which was previously plumbed for three cubicles – could be repurposed.
Two other submissions, from local residents, also described the heating system as ‘inadequate’ and one called for an area where event organisers could serve refreshments.
Fire regulations meant that the old refreshment counter had to be knocked down and removed so patrons would have easier access to the exit.
Municipal officer Justin England pointed out that the Council in-tends to build an extension – a glass-fronted, flat roofed structure on the south side of the building, facing onto the square.
As part of the building works, the layout to the existing ground floor will be changed and the extension will have a new foyer that will serve as a box office and a new accessible public convenience.
The new part of the building will be connected to the old by means of a ramp and this will remove the need to negotiate the steps at the front door.
At present, wheelchair users can only enter the building through a side entrance and their access to the toilet facilities is also restricted.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said the project – which is to be financed out of development charges collected by Skibbereen Town Council – will see the number of seats for local and visiting productions increase from 200 to 250.
But he warned that it will only become a truly popular and much-used theatre venue when a modern heating system is put in place.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said the entire square will be given a facelift as part of the ongoing public realm works and he said this will ‘breathe new life into Skibbereen’.
Between the opening of the new Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre in the centre of the town and these ambitious but long overdue plans for the town hall – which is already a venue for visiting productions – Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said that Skibbereen ‘has become a hub for the arts’.