Supporting info for 2015 application

Abbeyleix Tidy Towns:

Submission for National Tidy Towns Competition 2015

Abbeyleix Tidy Towns Committee was established over fifty years ago in an effort to galvanise the community to work together to ensure Abbeyleix was not only a great place to live but to work in and visit also. Over the years the committee grew and forged alliances with the local town council, schools and community groups building a momentum that is in evidence today by the achievements of the local organisation (list lit of local, national, and international awards below).

We are committed to the principles of sustainable development and since 2010 our activity in this area has become more structured and formalised with the formation of the Abbeyleix Business & Community Forum (ABC). This new umbrella structure has provided the ideal vehicle to enable the Tidy Towns committee and other existing groups to harness the energy and enthusiasm which coincided with the opening of the motorway and the subsequent diversion of vehicles. The town has been reclaimed by the community from the choking traffic and this has given rise to one new initiative after another. . The following is a brief description of our community along with some detail on our overall approach to sustainability plus a list of our key achievements over the past year.


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2.1 Overall Developmental Approach 50 Marks

Involvement with the local community in activities, partnership with local businesses schools and agencies, work carried out using an up to date 3 / 5 Year Tidy Towns Plan. Quality of map supplied.

Numbers involved on the committee:

Our Tidy Towns Committee is a core member of the Abbeyleix Business and Community Forum (ABC) which is the umbrella community development organisation for Abbeyleix. We have an active committee of 10 members which are drawn from across the community.

We work closely with all the relevant groups in town and have direct representation on the following committees: Abbeyleix Heritage Company, Abbeyleix Bog Project, Abbeyleix Park Development and APEC (Community Employment Scheme). Our membership of the ABC Forum gives us direct access to all the relevant business and community groups in the town. It also ensures improves our interaction with public agencies as we can ensure that all initiatives correspond with the overall vision for the town. It also ensures that there is no duplication or indeed conflict with the work of other committees.

Level of voluntary commitment (no. of meetings, general involvement of community, etc.):

Our work in Tidy Towns continues all year round as can be seen by the attached work sheet. We meet formally for our AGM each April to review the year gone by and to formulate a strategy for the coming year. After that we now meet monthly over the summer to review progress. Should there be an issue that requires attention we have a discussion at the end of our weekly clean -ups

We also report to the ABC Forum which meets quarterly. This gives us an opportunity to coordinate well with the other initiatives that are going on in the town.

As a relatively small committee we are coming around to the conclusion that we can best deploy our time in a coordination/ facilitation role. For example our engagement on the Tus programme has brought an increased management responsibility but, on the other hand, it has relieved us of a lot of the day to day litter picking and sweeping etc.

Recently the Laois Nationalist asked us to partner for exposure in the “Get Involved” promotion to “make a difference in your community”. We received a lot of dedicated help with press, reporting funding and identifying local expertise for the Abbeyleix Bog Project, Tidy Towns and our initiatives to manage biodiversity related issues and community planning.

Agencies and bodies that have supported our activities

We deploy our volunteers to achieve our objectives where possible but we are mindful of our limited resources and as a result we are very proactive in making good use of the various work schemes and grant resources that are available to us.

Work Schemes:

The Department of Social Protection provides an excellent C.E scheme without their ongoing support Abbeyleix would find it very difficult to operate. The C.E scheme maintains the large open spaces on the approach roads and the church grounds.

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) have provided the services of a Park Ranger for the past 6 years in Fr Breen Park Abbeyleix to maintain the 11 acre site which is a key resource for our town. They also assist us with our work on Abbeyleix bog – for example the RSS workers recently assisted us to build the board walk (300 metres) and bog bridge ( 1300 Metres). The latter project required over 1500 heavy sleepers to be carried by hand onto the bog site!

Our partners in the GIY group are utilizing the Tus community work scheme to assist them in their development of the community garden.

Tidy Towns came on board with the Tus programme this year and took on two workers who have assisted us greatly in our work. Although this programme demands a degree of supervisory input it does pay significant dividends. Two (20 hour each) Tus participants are able to carry a significant portion of our workload.

Grant Funding:

Our strong track record and ability to deliver community projects is well recognized by Laois Partnership (LEADER) who are continuing to provide part-funding which allows us to take on significant projects.

The programme is closed at present but this year we completed the innovative Tree Identification Project (more later) which was that final installment of a LEADER funded project. Our colleagues in partner community groups have also been active in availing of leader funding e.g. GIY, Bog Project & ABC Forum

Local Authority

In spite of declining funds Laois County council is very supportive of our work. For example, they provide us with a small annual grant to support our work and also support us through annual events like Clean up Laois.

We maintain a close relationship with personnel at all levels in the Council e.g. horticulturalist (Maeve Flynn) and the Environmental Officer (Ann Marie Kelly)

We also work closely with the Council on a strategic level and our success in the various competitions has given credibility when approaching senior management.


Fundraising is becoming ever more difficult. In the past we have organised table quizzes and race nights to raise funds and we are now adopting more innovative approaches e.g. sale of produce at Applefest Festival.


Prizes from Competitions such as the National Tidy Towns represent a valuable source of funds and also have the added bonus of improving our profile and promoting our message. Through prudent use of these funds we are able to lever addition funding through LEADER etc.

Communication with our community

Formal and Informal

We are a relatively small town which lends itself to good informal communication and decision making. There is considerable overlap of personnel between the lead community organisations in the town, namely: Abbeyleix ABC, Abbeyleix Bog Project Ltd, Abbeyleix Heritage House, Abbeyleix GIY,

Good Structures

On a more formal level, the ABC Umbrella structure - which has representation from all sectors (arts/sports/community/ business / retail/ tourism) - has allowed a more strategic approach to community decision making and to the sustainable development of our town. We have put considerable resources into strategic planning and try to attain a good mix of planning and doing. For example, our strategic plans for the Tidy Towns and also Abbeyleix Bog. In the case of the sustainable communities plan the Department of Environment arranged for urban designers to work with us. These exercises provided excellent opportunities to stop and formulate thought through plans for the town and importantly, also provided a forum for the general public to come on board and contribute their viewpoints.

ETown Initiative

We are still progressing our Portal Website project which was mentioned last year. This ambitious project, which is led by the ABC Forum, is aiming to merge a complete business and community presence on one portal site which is being branded under the new Abbeyleix Brand

It will help to encourage the “Buy Local” campaign and will help the two way communication process with the community.

Communication Mediums

In addition to formal public meetings and AGMs etc. we communicate with our community using all available media resources. Regular updates on our Newsletter are a great way to keep the community briefed. 21st century technology in the form of the web is also invaluable and Facebook is also proving invaluable as it provides a two way communication process. We recently set up a texting system to coordinate activities on our clean up evenings over the summer.

The general Abbeyleix Facebook account is managed by a member of the ABC group. With over 2500 likes it has more or less full reach to the online community and was nominated for the Social Media Awards in 2014 (for excellent use of the technology for community development)

Website – comprehensive listing of reports and studies relevant to the community plus details of initiatives

We use the “Update” parish newsletter to keep the community informed on our activities and to recruit for manpower

We are mainly communicating via the general Abbeyleix Facebook page at the moment as it has a strong reach in the community. We also manage the Tidy Towns Facebook page which we may promote stronger in the future.

Other inclusive working methods:

Given today’s hectic lifestyles we are encouraging people to get involved in short-term projects rather that necessarily formally joining the committee. Facebook offers a good opportunity to communicate with the type of people and to put out call for one-off jobs that need doing.

We also use relevant community events such as the Abbeyfest Festival and the Applefest Festival to promote our work, to fundraise and to recruit help. We also arrange wildlife walks on Abbeyleix Bog as well as an annual summer picnic – this is an excellent way of getting children involved as well as encouraging parents to get on board.

The Applefest Festival offers a very good example of the positive work being done to promote heritage, environment and sustainable living in Abbeyleix.

Jointly organised by Tidy Towns, Heritage House, Abbeyleix Community Garden, and the local GIY Group, the Applefest is now an established annual event which in 2014 moved to our new community garden in Main St.

The festival aims to celebrate the local harvest, to promote local produce and to promote –in a fun way – traditional approaches to utilising our local harvest.

As with many other initiatives, this festival is the outcome of a combined effort from all corners and age ranges of the Abbeyleix community.

Engagement with local schools

Primary Schools

Abbeyleix Tidy Towns have a great association with both National Schools and we supported both schools to become involved in "The Green Schools" We were very proud when they received their Green Flags. The South National School recently received their fourth Green Flag. The South School are the first school in Laois to be awarded the energy flag for promoting physical fitness in their school.

The bog is very accessible to the schools and we have hosted a significant number of visits over the past three years. The childrens section of our website is aligned with the curriculum and has some good resources for teachers.

Abbeyleix VEC

We have recently strengthned our link with the local VEC who participated in the Fresco Project and are also in the process of installing art installation on Abbeyleix Bog.

Community benefit from involvement in the competition?

We see Abbeyleix Tidy Towns as a key contributor to the sustainable development of Abbeyleix and see our work marking a strong socio-economic contribution to the town. Working in close partnership with The Abbeyleix Business and Community (ABC) Forum and our other partner community organisations we have already achieved strong recognition for our efforts.

There is considerable momentum in the community at the moment following on from a strong performance in recent local, national and international competitions which acknowledged strong performance in community sustainability. The community gardens and allotment sites are very visible and high profile hives of activity and are a great means of encouraging more people to get involved.

The Abbeyleix Bog project (in particular the boardwalk and bog bridge projects) has elicited a wonderful response from the community who gave their time freely. This was acknowledged with our success in the “Get Involved” campaign.

The National Tidy Towns Competition provides a valuable structure and annual deadline for us to work to. Feedback through the adjudication process is useful and it provides us with a valuable outside view as well to focus our attention.

In the following section we will set out examples of some of our main activities under the various different headings.

More information including additional photographs is supplied via our website : information for 2015 application

We have also added notes to the Three Year Tidy Towns Plan which is appended.

3.0 Built Environment and Streetscape 50 Marks

Buildings: Conservation and presentation of heritage buildings and quality of shop-fronts: design, sustainability and suitability of new structures to their location and environment; treatment of derelict sites and unoccupied buildings; design and suitability of civic amenity buildings.

Public Spaces: Squares, parks, streetscape, paving, landscaping and street furniture; street lighting, building facade lighting, appropriately designed signage relating to streets and place nameplates, parking locations, historical trails, walkways and access points to local amenities and facilities, way-finding and the general use of the Irish language; sustainability and access for everyone.

We are pleased to report that the centre of our town is undergoing something of a renaissance. The positive pickup in the economy has been significant and a number of previously vacant premises/ dwellings have changed hands and are in the process of / are planned for renovation. It is very encouraging to see families moving back in to the town centre.

The traders in town have also got behind the new Abbeyleix Brand and have formed an action group which meets weekly (Monday 7:00am sharp!) to discuss and organize (business) initiatives.

Coupled with this, the town has undergone a significant painting programme. This was part due to our cajoling (and admittedly part due to the good weather!)

Projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

3.1 House/ Premises Painting Programme June 2014 - Current

3.2 Example of excellent house renovation/ rebuild.

Jan – May 2015

House opposite Preston House on South Main Street. Excellent example of restoration work in line with Building Conservation Code.

3.3 Renovation of Old South School

Oct 14 – May 2015

The Old South School was sold for development as a private dwelling. The new owner is in the process of sensitively restoring the building according to good building conservation principles.

3.4 Street Furniture

June 2014

A new seat has been erected in Market Square to commemorate 100 years of the ICA in Abbeyleix

The lampposts (with the aid of cherry picker)and other street furniture was painted in July 2014

3.5 Innovative Tree Plaques

Attractive “Botanic Garden” style tree tags have been placed on specimen trees in and around the town centre. This innovative project was “borrowed” from Kew Gardens - April 2015

3.6 Development of Heritage Trail

An high quality online Heritage Trail was developed and Published online ( Produced by Abarta Guided trails)

Launched in Jan 2015

3.7 Upgrade of Heritage House

Heritage House in Abbeyleix has undergone a significant renovation both inside and outside. From a built landscape point of view, the restoration of the roof and the restoration of the stepped path up to the playground area are significant. Autumn 2014

Problem Areas: Current status

As buildings change hands we make a policy of approaching new owners to discuss appropriate painting etc. We have been informed that the following buildings are due to be renovated (hopefully over this summer) - former Allied Irish Bank, Capri Grill, Pembroke Hotel

4.0 Landscaping and Open Spaces 50 marks

Appropriate planning and management of open spaces, selection and siting of native trees, shrubs and flowers for year round effect and maintenance of planted areas. Presentation of roundabouts and all grass strips.

We welcome the changing focus of the Tidy Towns competition towards sustainability and continue to focus on non-showy projects which yield long term gains. For example, we favor spending our scare resources on native tree/ shrub planting over transient displays of annual flowers.

Our work in this category over the past year has focused on the approaches to the town from the Northern and Southern End (Southern Bookend Project). We are very pleased with the establishment of the Hornbeam trees in Market Square which established well and which are currently providing a welcome splash of colour to this focal point in the town.

List projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

4.1 Southern Bookend Project Jan – Current 2015

The Southern Bookend project which was presented in proposal form in last year’s submission is now in the final stages of completion. This will make a strong visual impact on the approach to the town from the Southern end (Durrow Road).

As part of the project the road verges were reprofiled following sewage works and 2000 Daffodils/ 1000 Snowdrops/ 1000 Bluebells were sown. 60 Native Oak trees were also established.

New Timber Railings and stone facing on the concrete bridges on either side of the road will soon be completed.

4.2 Landscaping of Northern entrance to Abbeyleix March 15

A local residents group have informally come together to improve the roadside area on the Northern entrance to Abbeyleix.

4.3 Visual enhancements to Abbeyleix Bog March 15

A bonus associated with all the initiatives on the bog is that it is now becoming more beautiful and attractive as an open space. For example, we have worked with the local Authority to use recycled road planings to resurface the entrance to Abbeyleix bog. The grass verges at the entrance have also been reprofiled.

The walk down the railway line is now punctuated by notice boards and there are also seats to take a rest or maybe have a picnic.

The perimeter walkway on Abbeyleix Bog was becoming mucky and damaged in parts but this issue has been solved by the construction of the new “bog-bridge” (1300 m in total) along the perimeter of the site.

4.3a Participation in Tree Week – March 2015

As part of National Tree Week we planted 20 Native Trees in the estates on the Mountrath Road, The Fairways and Balladine. These native trees were provided to community groups undertaking landscaping projects.

4.4 Development of GIY Garden June – May 2015

Work has continued and the appointment of a Tus worker on this project has accelerated the pace of work. The past year has seen the planting up of espalier fruit trees along the south facing wall and also fruit trees along installation of a community outdoor oven has also enhanced the appeal of this wonderful outdoor space which doubles as a demonstration/ teaching space. It is a beautiful open access space right in the centre of town.

4.5 Edible landscapes

As detailed in another section - Our Edible Landscapes or “Incredible Edible” project was rolled out again. . As part of this initiative our window boxes were planted up with edible herbs and pollinators friendly plants.

Again this initiative delivers on many fronts. It delivers an attractive splash of colour in the town centre while also providing habitat for insects and herbs for the table

A report on our “Incredible Edible project is appended.

5.0 Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities 50 Marks

Raising understanding and awareness of the natural amenities in your area, including any aspects that make your area important for conservation (e.g. waterways, field boundaries, coastal features). An appreciation of how species and habitats should be best protected and managed. Provide evidence of good co-operation with expert groups and relevant authorities, especially in carrying out work in sensitive areas. Provision of access to natural areas and interpretation of key aspects.

We have worked hard this year to deliver recommendation of the Biodiversity Action Plan which was launched on 2014.

The Abbeyleix Bog Project is has gone from strength to strength and has just seen its more successful year to date. Noteworthy achievements include: construction of 1400metres of bog bridge along perimeter of site/ erection of bat boxes/ invasive species control programme/ partnering with third level institutions/ countless training & educational events/ success in “Get Involved” project etc. etc.

We have also been active in the wider town and key achievements here include the innovative tree labelling programme/ tree planting/ bird box programme

List projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

5.1 Abbeyleix Bog – Ongoing

Bearing in mind your comments about too much detail in last year’s adjudication report we are submitting a separate summary report compiling the activities on Abbeyleix Bog over the past year. This report will apply to a number of sections of the application. See below a few photos relevant to this section.

5.2 Bird Box Project

Eight board boxes erected in park in Knocknamoe and also along Main Street - Feb 2015

5.3 Innovative Tree Labelling Program April 2015

The identification plates (in the style of those found in Botanic Gardens) are mounted on tree guards where they are available and are attached with innovative tree fixings on free standing trees. This system was devised by The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, and is an ideal way of securing labels to trees in a cost effective way without causing them any harm. A stainless steel nail is used with a phosphor bronze helical spring in front of the label, with a washer between the label and the tree. As the tree grows the nail is gradually prised out to allow for further growth. This project is innovative and we are not aware of any similar project nationally.

5.4 Development of Wildflower area on Ballyroan Road Oct 2015

An unsightly area opposite the golf course entrance on the Ballyroan road was cleared and fenced with an attractive railing. A wild flower seed mix was sown in autumn 2014. Establishment was patchy as sowing was followed by very dry period. We are confident that the area will colonise well and offer a good pollination site for bees among other things.

5.5 Establishment of Wildlife Area at pharmacy –Autumn ‘14

Dr Fiona McGowan (a local ecologist) was deployed to assist the pharmacist in the southern end of town to establish a wildlife area. An appropriate cutting regime has been put in place to encourage seceding of wild flowers and bulbs have been put in for interest in the spring. A sign was also erected to mark the area.

5.6 Wildlife Initiative - Ashbrook Estate Ongoing

Ashbrook Estate is a good example of a well organised estate with a good structure in place. Bird Boxes are maintained and cleaned out each autumn and the bat boxes are left to their own devices. After many years of planting and development of flower beds etc. they are now at the stage where they just need to maintain what they have in place.

5.7 Guided Wildlife Tours

There have been countless educational visits to the bog and in addition to this Dr Fiona McGowan led educational walks for both primary schools to identify the wildlife on the playground and also the species rich graveyard on the ground of St Michael’s and All Angels Church (Spring 2015)

5.8 Fresco Project – Community Engagement Feb ‘15

This photos below show the official unveiling of the result of an imaginative project realised between the Art Department in the Abbeyleix Further Education Centre and Heritage House in Abbeyleix (a fascinating museum and interpretive centre). The project in question was the creation of an authentic painted fresco representing various aspects of the ecclesiastical and natural history in Abbeyleix. A fresco specialist, Enrico Ferrarino, from Florence, came to Ireland for a week in February to direct the process. A time consuming and highly specialised way of painting (think Giotto, Raphael & Michelangelo - fresco masters) in watercolor on fresh wet plaster so that the colours penetrate the plaster.

It includes elements of Abbeyleix's monastic history, wildlife, railway and recently opened bog boardwalk as well as the two churches in the background

5.9 Incredible Edibles Project

Detailed in previous section

6.0 Sustainable Waste and Resource Management

Describe activities on how you manage waste and promote efficient use of resources (e.g. water, energy, transport) in your community. Provide evidence of practical steps taken to prevent or reduce waste produced across your community (e.g. householders, businesses, and schools) or how you reuse your resources. Provide examples of awareness campaigns, events or activities hosted by the community (e.g. details of any workshops/demonstrations held since your last entry).

Abbeyleix Tidy Towns is committed to establishing Abbeyleix as a centre of excellence in relation to managing waste and promoting efficient use of resources. Working in close partnership with The Abbeyleix Business and Community (ABC) Forum and our other partner community organisations we have already achieved considerable recognition for our efforts in this area.

As detailed in last year’s application we have recently achieved considerable success in a number of competitions which acknowledge good practice in sustainability and resource management in particular:

· Nominated to deliver a pilot sustainable communities plan

· Represented Ireland in the International LivCom competition in Abu Dhabi and achieved a silver medal.

· We made the shortlist for the Green Comunities Award (we lost out to Cloughjordan)

· We won the county sustainability award from Laois County Council

Abbeyleix has worked hard this year to develop a “buy local, consume local” ethos in the town. We released a new logo to market the town and the local traders have reformed as a business group to promote themselves to the local market. The new website – is being developed to encourage this.

Our GIY initiative is showing no signs of slowing up and we are currently supporting 3 significant public growing spaces.

The “Applefest” is our key public event to promote all that is good about utilising and celebrating out local resources.

Our most exciting plan for this year is the roll out of our water ram project which could probably be a national first for Tidy Towns.

Projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

6.1 Buy local Campaign –

We feel strongly that by embedding a “think local” ethos in the town we can go a long way toward saving resources and creating a vibrant and sustainable economy.

We assisted the ABC group to organize a Christmas Market and craft farm to offer a forum for local crafts people and food producers to sell their produce and to promote the “buy local” message. This event is now becoming an established part of the Christmas calendar. Similar events are organized for St Patrick’s Day and Easter Dec 2014

6.2 Public Growing Spaces/ Promotion of Grown Your Own

We now have three substantial public growing spaces: Community Garden adjacent to the post office; Allotment garden on grounds of St Michael’s; Dove House Garden. There are also communal growing spaces at Gort na Noir Estate and the South School.

6.3 Community Garden Ongoing

Our community Garden is set up as a demonstration site showcasing good practice. The garden is managed organically and the group meet at least twice a week over the summer to get work down and to teach/ demonstrate organic Growing Techniques

The site boasts on site Demonstration of rainwater harvesting. Composting, community baking etc. etc.

Rainwater harvesting at Community Garden

Compost – Demonstration Facility

6.4 Community Oven

We are very excited about our new community oven which was completed in July 2014.

The oven was largely created from salvage materials and is wood fired.

The oven is a great tool for promoting the “think local - eat local” and even the “Slow Food” ethos.

We are hoping to establish a baking club in due course

6.5 Junior GIY Initiatives

Margaret Jacob of the GIY group has engaged with both local primary schools as well as the Jellytots crèche. The schools and the crèche now maintain vegetable beds which are shared between the community garden and the allotment garden. Ongoing Project

6.6 Allotment Garden

The allotment garden by St Michael’s is entering another summer production and is a wonderful resource for residents of the south of the town in particular

6.7 Establishment of WEEE bring centre summer 2014

A member of our tidy towns committee has generously allowed the establishment of a WEEE bring centre on the property directly adjacent to the community garden. You can see a water harvesting demo setup beside the bring centre as well.

6.8 Festival to promote sustainability/ engage public Oct 2014

We have utilised our community festivals to communicate environmental best practice to a wide cross section of our community. Although our Arts festival (Abbeyfest) has taken a rest for a second year (key committee members minding twins!) we have extended the remit of the Applefest to incorporate a “buy local” and food sustainability sub theme. Last year’s Applefest produced 1500 kgs of apples - which would otherwise have gone rotten - pressed to produce over 600 litres of apple juice and to promote local food producers. October 2014

6.9 Recycling

We are committed to waste minimisation and recycling. The town is served with a door to door recycling collection service (alternate weeks - cardboard, plastics etc.) and also has 2 bottle banks & clothing banks. The door to door service was expanded in 2011 to include a brown bin collection (alternate weeks), for the collection of compostable waste. This additional service, which is available free of charge, marks a significant improvement to the environmental performance of the town.

The stats for our bottle bank for 2014 are as follows:

Note: Stats for Calendar year 2014

Water conservation

Scoil Mhuire NS which has a green flag has installed water hippos to reduce water consumption. This continuing initiative yields estimated water saving of 133,956 litres of water in the school year – ongoing

Master Composter Training

A member of our committee attended the 5 week Master Composter training course which was run by Laois County Council. We promoted the training to our local community

6.9a Green Transport Initiatives Ongoing

We attended meetings on the Local Authority led walking and cycling strategic plan initiative (Feb, March 2015) which is still ongoing. We also spoke last year about the proposed greenway project on the disused railway line between Abbeyleix Bog and Portlaoise. The initial feasibility study was completed in March 2014 and since then we have been assisting the working group to approach landowners with a view to getting them on board with the initiative. Although this initiative is at an early stage we see a great opportunity here to promote carbon free travel opportunities. Jan 2014 – May 2014

Bike Week June 2014

Through our involvement with the ABC Forum we delegated the soccer club to take on the task of participating in bike week for 2014. We had a very strong response for the cycle to Durrow on the NRA designed bike corridor

6.9b Electric Charging point summer 2014

An electric Charging Point has been placed in the town (by Knocknamoe House). We are not aware if we have any users yet but are glad that this infrastructure is in place to support the technology down the line.

6.9 c Incredible Edibles Project Summer 2014/ 2015

Our Edible Landscapes or “Incredible Edible” project was continued last year to great effect. As part of this initiative our window boxes were planted up with edible herbs and pollinators friendly plants. We have since developed this theme further and

A report on our “Incredible Edible project is appended.

6.9d Smart sustainable planning for sports facilities

Fr Breen Park under the auspices of the Park Development Committee continues to be developed as a multi- use sporting facility. This facility is a model in sustainable planning - situated as it is in the centre of the town and within walking distance of the majority of the town’s residential areas. This facility which is shared among several sporting disciplines (GAA, soccer, tennis, hockey etc. ) has very small footprint and avoids the issue of replicated facilities (e.g. separate dressing rooms/ floodlights/ car parking etc. for each discipline) which tends to be the case in many areas. The latest development is a full perimeter walk which provides and excellent safe and well lighted walking route for locals.

Have a look at the photo below which emphasizes the efficient and intensive use of this area.

Forthcoming events:

Water Conservation Project

We are excited about the proposed Water Harvesting Project (hydraulic ram technology) which we intend to roll out this summer. This ambitious project will provide a free and sustainable source of water to the allotment garden on the grounds of

Michael Malone a local engineer with an expertise in this field) has agreed to coordinate the project.

We were unsuccessful last year in getting SEAI funding for the project as the Local Authority could not provide the necessary match funding. Given the innovative nature of the project we decided to “beg, borrow and scrape” to get this project over the line.

The ram will be placed in a public and accessible portion which means that it will serve well as a demonstration project. We have also arranged to bring the Portlaoise Men’s Shed on board with the project so that they can become familiar with the concept and possibly replicate the project elsewhere.

Bike Week

As part of this year’s National Bike Week we are targeting the 4 Crèches in town and will be encouraging cycling to our younger citizens.

7.0 Tidiness and Litter Control 90 Marks

Tidiness: General lack of clutter, blocked footpaths, redundant poles, unsightly overhead electric cables, absence of graffiti and fly-posting, and evidence of control of weed growth at kerbs. Absence of unsightly and / or inappropriate advertising, such as that on gables of buildings and mass produced advertising banners in shop fronts. Please note that although general tidiness is evaluated and marked in this category, tidiness is also considered under other categories including the Built Environment & Streetscape, Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes.

Litter: The adjudicator will assess the absence of litter and dumping, evidence of litter control strategy, including regular litter patrols, segregation of collected litter during clean-ups and promotion of anti-litter awareness throughout community.

As highlighted previously, we have made good progress on painting shop fronts and dwellings in the town centre. We have continued to bang the drum on promoting litter control and collection of dog waste through our internet/ social media and poster campaign. We also organize daily litter collections. Our main breakthrough in the past year was the engagement of two Tus work participants who provide a combined total of 40 hour’s work each week. This has resulted in a much cleaner town centre and has taken the pressure of us on out Monday and Tuesday night cleanups and – as detailed earlier – has given our core committee more time to commit to organizing and facilitating other projects.

List projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

7.1 Engagement with Tus Work Programme Ongoing

As mentioned earlier we have entered into the Tus work programme and have taken on the day to day supervision of 2 Tus participants. While this is a big commitment in terms of supervision, it is paying big dividends in terms of tidiness and litter control.

7.2 Removal of Clutter Oct 2015

We have cooperated with Laois County Council to allow community access to the Signage Frame at Southern end of town. This frame can accept standard size corriboard signs which can now be cheaply produced by graphics companies. Festival groups for example can create corriboard signs of the appropriate size which can be neatly placed in the frame. This has been successful in reducing untidy placement of signs around the town.

We may lobby for another sign at the northern end of town

7.3 Clean Up Laois April 2015

We participated in the “Clean Up Laois” campaign and used the opportunity to kick off our “tidying up” season in earnest. This well publicised event is a good opportunity to get the public on board

April 2015

7.4 Removal of litter From Bog Ongoing

Fly tipping on parts of Abbeyleix Bog continues to be a periodic problem. We try to quickly remove waste to prevent it becoming an established problem

7.5 Communication of Litter Message

A Local graphic designer has volunteered to provide us with specially designed posters to encourage tidiness participation in Tidy Towns Jan 2014


Some of the tree guards are very significantly damaged and the costs of replacement/ professional repairing are exorbitant.

We have managed to lobby the County Council to provide a street sweeper on one occasion. If this service was provided say monthly it would take great pressure off our volunteer sweepers/ litter pickers.

8.0 Residential Streets & Housing Areas 50 marks

Residential streets that include Town Houses are integral parts of towns and villages and should be treated in a similar fashion to public and private housing developments. Consideration is given to proper presentation and maintenance of all properties with due cognisance given to maintenance of frontages, boundary and gable end walls. Gardens, where applicable, should be presented to a good standard. In housing developments green areas should be cut regularly. Children's play areas to be considered with equipment maintained to best standards. Where possible individual estates should have suitable name signs - stones, plaques, sign posts, etc. preferably bilingual. Unfinished estates will not reflect badly on the efforts of any community but examples of how the community is addressing this issue should be highlighted.

Although we do have some issues, Abbeyleix did not suffer significantly as a result of unfinished estates. A significant proportion of De Vesci Hill is still unoccupied but it has good security provision and is relatively well maintained.

The small estate beside Dunne’s Hardware on the Mountrath Road has some issues but we are finding it difficult to contact the owners.

List projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

The majority of our estates have formed residential committees to look after their area and this approach has largely worked well. For example, the line of new lime trees which at Abbeyleix Crescent which we highlighted last year are developing beautifully.

Ashbrook Estate is a very good example of an estate which constituted a residents group and developed a simple but effective management plan which catered for improvement in landscape (e.g. heritage apple trees), biodiversity (e.g. Bird and bat boxes) and energy use (energy audits).

We are pleased to note that Grallow Hill estate is now largely occupied and the appearance of the estate has improved dramatically as a result.


We have encouraged two residents groups to take on projects slightly outside of their immediate area (Balladine/ Gort na Noir & The Tiles) and we are very pleased with the results. We will endeavor to continue with this theme in the coming year.

9.0 Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes 50 Marks

Appropriate presentation of approach roads, including the roadside verges and their boundary treatment. The appearance of town and village streets, connecting roads, laneways, bridges and cycle lanes. Provision for inclusive access and pedestrian connections.

We have focused this year on the Southern approach (from Durrow) and the Southern Bookend Project was out showpiece project in this category. We are also pleased with the fact that we have also mobilised two community groups to look after their respective sections on the Northern Approach (From Portlaoise and the Western Approach (from Mountrath)

List projects undertaken this year 2014/2015.

9.1 Southern Bookend Project Jan – Current 2015

The Southern Bookend project which was presented in proposal form in last year’s submission is now in the final stages of completion. This will make a strong visual impact on the approach to the town from the Southern end (Durrow Road).

As part of the project the road verges were reprofiled following sewage works and 2000 Daffodils/ 1000 Snowdrops/ 1000 Bluebells were sown. 60 Native Oak trees were also established.

New Timber Railings and stone facing on the concrete bridges on either side of the road will soon be completed.

9.2 Western Approach – Balladine Feb – Current

The recent sewage works in the Balladine area left the area in a poor visual condition. The Local residents have taken on the task of planting bulbs and reseeding the area and also planting native trees.

We have also arranged funding for them to place a stone face on the (concrete) bridges which were poorly finished as part of the sewage works (see photo left)

9.3 Northern Approach –

Residents on Portlaoise Rd have “adopted” their stretch of the road and are working with Maeve Flynn (County Council horticulturalist) on landscaping and tree planting in this area

9.4 Improvement to entrance to Abbeyleix Bog Feb 15

The highly visible entrance to Abbeyleix has been landscaped and is now visibly improved. The placement of road planings has significantly improved the surface condition at the entrance at the entrance and the verge areas have been graded and seeded.

An eye catching wooden sculpture is in planning for this area.

Upcoming projects:

We plan to screen off the Stone Arch (opposite to entrance to Abbeyleix Bog) over the summer period.

We plan to upgrade the triangular area opposite the Garda Station on the Eastern Approach (Carlow Road)