Sustainability Award

1. Background

Abbeyleix Community is committed to the principles of sustainable development and since 2010 our work in this area has become more structured and formalised with the formation of the Abbeyleix Business & Community (ABC) Forum. The purpose of the ABC is to develop an overall strategy and to provide a framework for the various organizations and programmes within the community. Our commitment to sustainable development was acknowledged in the past year when Abbeyleix was selected by the Dept of Environment to deliver a comprehensive sustainable communities plan.

2. Principles of Sustainability

2.1 Efficient Use of Resources:

We are committed to buying and producing locally where possible;

· Our local GIY group established allotments in the south of the town and are currently developing a community garden in the centre of the town. Gort na Noir have also developed allotments.

  • We are committed to waste minimisation. For example, we have an ongoing initiative to recycle newspaper into briquettes and we also compost our green waste.
  • We are committed to the development of an eTown and have supplied incubation offices for local start-ups.
  • The ABC group recently commissioned a Community Sustainability Course based on the Powerdown model and also commissioned a waste minimisation workshop.
  • Recently secured LEADER funding to invest in energy efficient LED Christmas lights to reduce energy consumption.
  • We are in the process of developing a community recycling initiative.

2.2 Equity Between Generations

We understand that we need to conserve resources for future generations and that we need to bring young and old together to develop sustainable initiatives

  • We run two annual festivals which promote sustainability to young and old– Abbeyfest / Applefest
  • Our award winning library is heated by locally supplied woodchip.
  • We have two primary schools in the town both of which have green flags. We have promoted green transport initiatives.
  • Our community garden will cater for all generations and will work closely with the local primary schools
  • Community Sustainability Course

2.3 Respect for Biodiversity

  • We have also been active in conserving and interpreting biodiversity in and around our town. Our Limes in the Main Street are developing well and we have planted over 50 trees in the past year (inc. heritage varieties of apple trees – Abbey Crescent, 2 Primary Schools, Ashbrook, Heritage House)
  • The other key feature is Abbeyleix Bog which was signed over to the Abbeyleix Community from Bord na Mona earlier this year. We have recently commissioned a consultant to work with the community to develop a strategic plan for the bog. Work to date.
  • We have recently produced an information leaflet to provide an overview of wildlife and habitats in the town. We also maintain a website which shows the range of wildlife on the bog and our new educational section is aligned to the curriculum. We are engaged in a wildlife recording scheme with the National Biodiversity Centre

2.4 Equity Between Countries, Regions/ Social Equity

  • As a community, we are committed to fairness and social inclusion. As an example, a recent multi-generational effort from our community resulted in the wonderbag project. This innovative project brought together young and old to promote sustainable development and to raise funds for communities in Africa.
  • The hospital action group is a good example of our respect and solidarity with less advantaged members of our community
  • In Fr Breen Park we have a unique facility where Tennis, Soccer, GAA, and Hockey take place in the one shared facility. The facility also includes a youth café. Cost effective provision of facilities for people of all ages, abilities and interests.
  • We maintain a Community Creche which caters for parents looking to return to education or to the workplace. We also maintain a well-equipped playground.
  • We run a very successful community employment scheme which supports a number of other initiatives across the community.
  • We maintain 3 defibrillators in the town which is a very strong ratio for our population of 1800. An active committee provides free training to keep a cohort of trained CPR respondents.

2.5 Respect for Heritage/ Diversity

  • Abbeyleix was designated as a heritage town in 1982 in recognition of the town’s unique character as an early planned town. The town has been the focus of an architectural conservation area study which has largely protected the town from inappropriate planning decisions during the recent boom.
  • Our heritage centre provides a professional interpretation of Abbeyleix’s Heritage and we are in the process of developing and upgrading the centre with support from Laois LEADER .
  • We have recently erected mapboards around the town to interpret heritage features for locals and visitors alike.
  • Our local Comhaltas group recently secured funding to invest in an instrument bank and is currently running a training course to develop musicians.

3.0 Decision Making

The ABC Umbrella structure has allowed a more strategic approach to community decision making and to the sustainable development of our town. Our new sustainability plan will give us a very strong strategic guide. We are continually working on our communications and have embraced 21st century technology where possible. For example, we have succeeded in making www. and the associated Facebook Account” (c.a.1500 users) a “one stop shop” to communicate our activities. It was used very successfully to orchestrate the hospital action group for example. For those not on the web we communicate through the Parish newsletter which is managed by a local CE scheme.

Our Community festivals have been also been used to underpin our community structure and to promote the sustainability concept to all generations – e.g. Abbeyfest, Applefest

4.0 Community Benefit/ Participation

Abbeyleix is the place where community is not a term that is used lightly, but a way of life for young and old, business and volunteer alike. The level of Community participation has gone from strength to strength and this was recognised recently in our success in the National Pride of Place Competion.

Note that there is a series of slideshows below illustrating some of the initiatives described above. Click on the title at the foot of the cover photo to run the slideshow without leaving this website.