Home News Community Work never stops as Abbeyleix continue to make strides as a sustainable...

Work never stops as Abbeyleix continue to make strides as a sustainable town

Robbie Quinn (Abbeyleix Tidy Towns) . Dympna Kennedy, Cllr John Joe Fennelly and Angela Kennedy, outside the Library Abbeyleix last year

Abbeyleix is now making significant strides as a green and sustainable town, according to Robbie Quinn, Tidy Towns chairman, fresh from their brilliant recent triumph as the national Tidy Towns winner.

“We have already successfully delivered several national firsts and we are slowly developing the town as a living laboratory to road test and trial new sustainable ideas.

“We have ambitions to play a leading role in showcasing how rural based communities can navigate the transition to the new green economy,” he told Laois Today.

“Our big project for 2023/24 is to secure funding for a new sustainable communities plan.

“Our current plan was published in 2011 and most of the boxes if not all have been ticked off. Any new plan would be built around an active travel programme which would see Abbeyleix develop as a more cycle and walking friendly town with dedicated lanes and cycle infrastructure.

“We are looking at a significant national pilot and our priority is to commission an urban planner led design team to get the project going and we are quite happy to share our findings with other towns and villages around the country,” Robbie said.

“In recent weeks we applied for a €6,000 value biodiversity focused programme of works to Community Foundation Ireland.

“We got turned down for a town development application under the town and village fund. So, It’s not all success. The message here is that you must keep plugging away and never get despondent. Failed projects in the short term usually resurface or evolve at some point down the line,” the chairman said.

“We were approved a few weeks ago by the DCs for Bees project for another 100 fruit trees. These trees will be arriving in mid-November and will be planted around the town. This is part of our ‘edible landscape project’,” Robbie said.

“This week we put in a proposal for our winter native tree planting programme to the ‘Trees on the Land’ initiative. Our proposal this winter is for an additional 3,950 native tree and hedge plants across 10 different sites.

“We are in the process of arranging the close out of our traditional meadow management programme as per the national pollinator plan for this year.

“We were delighted to make arrangements in recent weeks with the Rockview bio-digester site in Ballyroan to take the grass and feed it through their electricity generating plant. Waste grass to electricity, that is the circular economy in action,” the chairman said.

“We have also met with an energy engineer at Fr Breen Park to start the ball rolling on an application to the upcoming climate action fund.  We are continuously feeding into various very exciting side projects like the Greenway, Blueway and Abbeyleix Trails projects,” Robbie said.

“Also this year we will continue our all-inclusive ethos and work hard to engage the wider community in our work. An example of this is the monthly bike meet where over 100 bikes come from all over the midlands and southeast to hang out for a couple of hours in Market Square every third Tuesday of the summer.

“This form of activity brings an economical benefit to the town midweek and the bikers in reciprocation of our hospitality and welcome for the last two years have held an annual fundraiser raising much needed funds for Tidy Towns and Down Syndrome Ireland, Laois branch,” Robbie said.

“We will continue to collaborate freely with external groups and institutions and maintain a very positive working relationship with a range of public bodies and agencies, not least Laois County Council. We continually promote a support local ethos and are already started on a range of projects that will move us forward on our journey to become a truly sustainable community,” he said.

“In recent years we have placed our projects under different categories to help people to have a better understanding of what we are about: biodiversity; climate and energy; smart village; public realm and active travel.

“We have sectoral strategic plans for each of these themes and have a long list of ambitious projects identified. We take immense pride in our heritage and our town. The one common theme among Tidy Towns volunteers is that we ‘love where we live’ and this can be seen through our delivery of projects over the last couple of years,” the chairman said.

“Abbeyleix has been very fortunate over the last number of years in that anecdotally, we continue to welcome an increase in visitors year-on-year. Superb offerings from local hostelries, restaurants, and unique shops promoted on a range of social media feeds have all helped to showcase our town on the national and international stage,” Robbie said.

“We have a strong socio economic remit. We sincerely hope to be in the spotlight for a while yet and will use this opportunity to drive more business and trade to the town and county whenever possible,” Robbie said.

The committee is hoping that being selected as Ireland’s Tidiest Town will attract more volunteers. “There is such a variety of ways to work with us and gain all those well-known benefits of volunteerism in your local community.

“Some people like to come out once a week and do litter picking and sweeping while having a good chat and a laugh together as a group. Others are working away in the background on plans or funding applications, and they fit this volunteering in at a time that suits them,” said the chairman.

“Others are more interested in specific projects and help with those whether that be gardening or helping to run our social events, such as Applefest, or helping raise awareness via social media.  There is something for everyone.”

Secretary of Abbeyleix Tidy Towns committee, Mary White, who has been involved in the effort for 35 years, said her advice to other Tidy Towns committees is to never give up. “We have been disappointed on so many occasions, we are still in disbelief at winning. We were one point behind in 2021, four points behind in 2022. Our points increase was 14 this year. It goes to show, you can never tell,” said Mary.

Cllr. John Joe Fennelly said that while it’s not all about the awards, he would dedicate everything they had won to date to the volunteers; the community; the Community Employment Scheme; the residents’ groups; the businesses of Abbeyleix and the local authority.

“They are instrumental in our winning awards and making the town a most desirable place to live, work and socialise. For this, we thank everyone who help us in numerous ways,” he said.

Jackie Walshe, treasurer, said the committee is still coming to terms with winning the overall award. “This is a win for the whole community and you can feel the joy and excitement around the town since we brought the trophy home. We have always known we live in the ‘jewel of the midlands.’

“Now hopefully we will share it with others. We intend to keep the jewel polished and work begins immediately for the coming year and anyone wishing to join us would be very welcome.”

Fiona MacGowan, committee member, said that the victory reflects years of fantastic work across the community by many groups working together for the benefit of all in Abbeyleix.

“Our work very much highlights the protection and cherishing of nature and biodiversity and how by looking after our natural environment we are in fact looking after the present and future people of Abbeyleix. ‘Love where you live’ encapsulates it all really.”

Mark Clancy  who is also on the committee, has the following advice: ”Keep making plans and always be willing to try and share new ideas. Most importantly, plant more trees in your area.”

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