Call for urgency on town bridge and castle lighting scheme

Westmeath County Council has said it hopes that works “will be progressed in 2024” in relation to a new scheme of lighting to illuminate Athlone Castle and Athlone Town Bridge, more than ten years after it was first agreed.

Fianna Fáil's Aengus O'Rourke queried what was causing the delay in commissioning the new lighting at the latest Athlone-Moate Municipal District meeting, saying that it was previously indicated that the system would be operational in early 2024.

He was told in a written reply that the public lighting contractor has taken on a specialist lighting designer who has “carried out an in-depth study of the castle and bridge and has submitted uplighting designs”.

In tandem with this, Urban Agency, the consultants for an upcoming public realm project at the castle, have progressed plans “to incorporate a portion of the proposed decorative lighting infrastructure within the realm project”.

However, the council warned that, due to the “scale, cost and nature” of the works, and the sensitive location, this is being “carefully planned and costed at the moment” by the lighting contractor.

The local authority said it would advise members on the progress of the design lighting project in the months ahead.

While Cllr O'Rourke acknowledged back in late 2018 that any lighting scheme represented a large investment, he stressed, however, the need for the bridge and the castle to properly illuminated because neither are fulfilling their potential as they currently are.

The Fianna Fáil councillor was told at that stage, that tenders for the lighting project were expected to be sought in early 2019.

The then Director of Services, Barry Kehoe, now acting CEO of Westmeath County Council, estimated in late 2018 that the lighting project would cost in region of a quarter of a million euro.

Mr Kehoe predicted the impact of the design lighting scheme on both historic structures would be very dramatic.

There has long been calls for the lighting of the bridge and the castle to be improved, in line with other historic buildings around the country. It's been noted by many council members over the years that the lighting of castle and the town bridge is inadequate when compared to the nearby St Peter and Paul's Church, which is lit up well at night and stands out prominently in video and TV news reports/footage.

Meanwhile, there has also been criticism at the frequency of outages among the existing street lighting along the town bridge.