Consultants to map out Sligo Gaol potential
THE firm behind the Titanic Centre and the Guinness Storehouse has been appointed as consultants to Sligo Gaol.
Contracts were signed recently with CHL Consulting to conduct a feasibility study and map out the full potential for the use of the Gaol which closed in 1956.
Partially used now by local clubs, the Civil Defence and the council, nonprofit group of volunteers, Friends of Sligo Gaol, are hoping to eventually open the building to the public and conserve the 200-year-old structure.
Described by the group as a ‘ key asset to the town’, it is now hoped that the consultancy group will develop a phased project for the building.
The gaol still contains original cells and their doors and graffiti is visible on the walls left by prisoners. Among those imprisoned included Michael Collins and Michael Davitt.
Speaking to The Sligo Champion following the contract signing, Ciaran McHugh, Feasibility Study Project Manager with Friends of Sligo Gaol, said CHL Consulting will be looking at the best options for the building and compiling a report.
The feasibility study will identify and assess options for the development of Sligo Gaol as a publicly accessible amenity, an asset for the community, and a key tourism attraction for Sligo.
The study will exam the existing plans and policies as outlined in the Sligo Gaol Conservation Plan, the Sligo East City/Cranmore area Regeneration plan and Sligo Heritage policy.
They will also assess the financial viability of various potential options measuring operational costs against sources of ongoing income.
CHL Consulting’s executives who will be working on a fea- sibility study have worked on heritage sites including Spike Island and Elizabeth Fort in Cork, and tourism interests including Fáilte Ireland and Bord Bia.
“They have tonnes of experience in this sector. You could have markets, there’s lots of potential, commercial tourism is one potential use for it but also that it’s a community space,” said Mr McHugh.
He added that the voluntary group do not expect that the council will fund the project and that external funding and capital grants will have to be sought.
Friends of Sligo Gaol are funding this study with a grant from the LEADER Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 with additional match funding from the group’s own funds.
Commenting on the appointment, Sligo County Council CEO Ciaran Hayes said, “I could envisage the gaol becoming a flagship project for Sligo and the region.
“The council looks forward to working with the consultants and the Friends of Sligo Gaol in their efforts to determine the way forward”.
Friends of Sligo Gaol chairperson Tamlyn McHugh said, “We regard the appointment of the consultants as the most significant step yet towards the realisation of our aims. We are delighted to have secured the services of specialists with the expertise of CHL Consulting”.
Michael Counahan, Managing Director of CHL, said, “Sligo Gaol is a very important heritage site with many unique features. It has genuine potential to become a really exciting visitor experience and thereby make a significant contribution to the future growth of tourism in Sligo.”