An opportunity? Or an irreparable loss? Those were the questions facing Abbeyleix being bypassed by the M8 motorway.
Opportunity because the town was no longer a traffic bottleneck and was therfore a better place to live and do business. Loss because the motorway had eliminated most of the passing trade.
Then funds were sourced, consultants employed, a steering group was set up, and local people and organizations gave their views.
Result? The Abbeyleix Sustainable Communities Plan. Co Council Chairman Paul Mitchell officially launched it at a function in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel on Saturday, November 10.
“Abbeyleix is just a beautiful town. It is starting with a beautiful canvas. It’s a fabulous town. If the recommendations of the plan are implemented, they wlll make an enormous difference”.
Abbeyleix Business and Community Development Group (ABC) Chairman Brian Maher, on a more cautionary note, said the town might as well be in the Nevada desert if it hadn’t got a vibrant community.
“The plan is not frozen. It’s not cast in stone. It’s meant to be fluid. What we really need to do is to get all our ideas together--to get back into a room and decide how much of it (plan) is deliverable.”
While pointing out that the plan contained fantastic ideas, he conceded that funds for some projects were unlikely to be available in the present economic climate.
Mr Maher added: “This is a rally call to us as a community to get behind the wheel on this. If we are going to deliver, we are going to have to talk to each other on this--to have a common strategy.”
Earlier, Co Council Senior Executive Planner Donal Kiely had given an outline of the plan. Council Director of Services Ann Marie Delaney also addressed the function. MC was County Heritage Officer Caterine Casey.
The Sustainable Communities Plan recommends: restoring the Cresent, he Market Square.Enhancing the town entrances at the Portlaoise and Cork ends. Environmental improvements at Balladine, especially around Gort na nOir. are proposed. It defines sustainable communities as places where people want to live and work, and which are active and inclusive, well run, environmentally sensitive, well designed and built, well connected, thriving, well served and fair for everyone.