FÁILTE Ireland has indicated its willingness to sign a 99-year lease for dilapidated yet historic old railway station building in Baltimore.
After meeting community groups, Cllr Karen Coakley engaged with Fáilte Ireland and the tourism organisation indicated its willingness to sign the lease at a nominal rate with Cork County Council.
Fiona Buckley, head of corporate services, wrote to Cllr Coakley confirming that the local authority had requested the transfer to the Council under what is called ‘the OPW protocol.’
She said this request was approved by Fáilte Ireland and relevant government departments, a number of years ago, and that a lease agreement was issued to Cork County Council to agree and sign.
Cllr Coakley tabled a motion at last Monday’s meeting of the West Cork Municipal District calling on the Council to snap up the lease because there is a community group on standby willing to clean and utilise the area known as ‘Bull Point’ as an outdoor amenity area this summer.
However, senior council official Mac Dara O h-Ici said his understanding of the situation is that it is the condition of the lease, and not the nominal fee, that is the sticking point.
In December 2020, the councillors rejected the terms of a proposed lease agreement on the basis that the Council would be obligated to renovate the historic building at a cost of around €370,000.
In her email to Cllr Coakley, Ms Buckley said, ‘I will not elaborate on the details of the lease.
‘It is important to note that there is no cost to the Council to acquire the premises and the premises may be used for a wide range of tourism purposes to benefit the tourism economy of Baltimore.’
Ms Buckley specified that the Council ‘will be required to maintain, secure, and insure the premises and the Council may also sublet the premises for tourism use.’
Cllr Coakley said she had discussions with Baltimore Community Council and they are willing to take over Bull Point and maintain it.
She also said use of the old railway building – possibly as a digital hub, a museum, an arts and crafts space, or a centre to honour the region’s marine heritage – could stimulate the local economy.
Cllr Coakley tabled a motion calling on the Council to proceed with a formal application to Fáilte Ireland.
‘I understand there are, at present, no funds to do up the old railway station,’ she added, ‘but we could apply for funding and grants. This is a long-term project, but the first step would be to secure the lease.’
Her motion was roundly endorsed by all the members of the West Cork Municipal District.
The conditions of the proposed lease are to be discussed at the next meeting of the West Cork Municipal District.