The town of Ballymahon is in line for a major makeover if a Rural Regeneration Development Funding application recently submitted by the Town Team is successful.
The Rural Regeneration Development Funding application was lodged by Ballymahon Town Team in recent weeks and includes some additional projects that will be of huge benefit to the community.
Every organisation in the area has backed the application to create a model, which will be known as ‘Le Chéile’, and incorporate all age groups in the community, young and old.
“Having gone and applied for planning permission for a change of use on the old Convent of Mercy to facilitate Bridgeways FRC and Ballymahon Day care centre, the town team have developed the scope of this project to a larger extent,” explained Niall Dowler, PRO of Ballymahon Town Team.
“It is our intention to seek planning permission on the Old Boys’ National School to develop that building to encompass a remote working from home ‘hot desk’ area in addition to the inclusion of a Men’s Shed facility.
“A building of this stature and historical nature deserves to be restored, utilised and brought back into use for the betterment of the community.
“We have also included a ‘Meals on Wheels’ service to operate from the Convent of Mercy which will be a significant benefit to the older population in our community.”
“In addition to this, it is also our intention to create a Youth Hub in the Dean Egan Library, which will give a younger generation a safe place to meet up in a controlled and supervised environment.”
The Dean Egan Library will still be under the umbrealla of Bridgeways Family Resource Centre, but will be exclusively for young people in the new plans.
“As part of the works to the Dean Egan Library, we have also included the proposed development and widening of the laneway beside this building, making it more accessible for vehicle movement with a small amount of car parking spaces to be created to the rear of this building also,” Mr Dowler explained.
“Whilst doing this and throughout the duration of our negotiations we have been very conscientious of the fact that we can not let one service relocate to a different building and have no contingency plan for the building being vacated.
“Displacement has been a key theme to the negotiations and we did not want to create a situation whereby the condition of any building would deteriorate due to a service relocating.
“That said, we are now waiting on the application to be deliberated on and we expect to hear word back early in the new year to see if we will be successful or not... here’s hoping.”
Ballymahon has a number of beautiful old buildings that have been landmarks of society for decades ore more. The Dean Egan is one of those buildings and it has been extremely important to Bridgeways Family Resource Centre that it remain under the Bridgeways umbrella as a youth facility.
“The day services of the Bridgeways Family Resource Centre will be moving across the road to the old Mercy Convent building, leaving the Dean Eagan Library for youth work only,” explained Grace Kearney of Bridgeways FRC.
“There will be no youth work in the convent building. We’re applying for funding for a community mental health hub which will employ two social prescribers and we’ll also be employing two more youth workers.”
Under the new proposal, the Dean Egan Library will only be open to young people, with no adult servics such as counselling or fitness classes, which currently take place in the building.
“We’re hoping to have youth work services for a minimum of five nights a week and hopefully weekends,” said Ms Kearney.
“So I’m expanding my services but going to have two locations with the more sensitive services in the convent where they’ll be more private. They’ll be on an appointment basis.”
Mental health and youth services are the biggest deficienies in Ballymahon, Ms Kearney explained, so this plan, should it be successful, will be a huge step forward in ensuring there are adequate services for the community.
“There’s a social prescription model in place in other parts of the country where, instead of a doctor immediately writing a medical prescription for addictive anti-depressants or sleeping pills, they write a letter saying to go Bridgeways for six weeks,” said Ms Kearney.
“So with us they work with our social prescribers and there are classes in meditation and yoga and other stuff and if the situation still doesn’t improve, the social prescriber can send them back to the doctor.
“But we will have all of those holistic services as part of the community health hub.
“There’s also too much of a need for youth services in the area. 25% of our population is made up of young people according to 2016 statistucs but it’s more than that,” she continued.
“There are 1,800 young people in Ballymahon every day and no youth services for them.”
With the Dean Egan being repurposed into a Youth Hub under the umbrella of Bridgeways FRC, more services will become available for young people, without adult services taking over throughout the week.
The elderly members of the community will also be well looked after if the application is approved, with plans to expand the services of the Convent Day Care Centre also in the works.
Breda Greaves of the Convent Day Care Centre has said that the funding will be of huge benefit to the local facility, which provides a place for the elderly members of the community to meet up.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to expand our service, considering all that has been going on,” she told the Leader.
“We needed to expand so this couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ll be able to cater for a bigger number of people going forward.
“It will also be a combination of the old and the new in together, with the Day Care Centre and Bridgeways,” she added.
“We’ll be able to link in and share ideas and ventures going forward. It will also make any future funding applications stronger, and we rely so heavily on funding.”
The entire project is estimated to be worth €6.5m and will be the first project of its kind in the country - a flagship project which, if successful, will likely be replicated across Ireland in the future.
“It’s called ‘Le Chéile’,” Ms Kearney explained, “and it will have all of the community under one umbrella. Everything will be connected. There is currently no county working together like that. But this will be everyone working together if all works out, which I think it will.
“It’s massive that the County Council are backing this too. The application is for the needs of all the community.
“We’re hoping to hear back by February 2021 and for a finish date of January 2023, if it all goes to plan. And it will hopefully be a community model that will be rolled out across the country,” Ms Kearney concluded.