The Crescent and Market Square are spotlighted in the Abbeyleix Sustainable Communities Plan as areas to lead what is described as the “new imagining of the town.”
It is suggested that buildings could be acquired and developed as model conservation projects.
“The potential for development is extraordinary,” the plan argues. “It is proposed that all of the buildings on Market Square should be raised to the highest classification of conservation, including their curtilage.”
It goes on: “Although the library and its immediate surrounds have been restored to very high standards, the surrounding buildings and ‘public realm’ in this vicinity of the Square are constrained by a combination of on-street parking and narrow footpaths.”
The plan recommends the focusing of public investment on improving the amount and quality of pedestrian space in the Square’s vicinity--this to be done in the light of the need for local businesses to be made more attractive and Abbeyleix’s ambition to market itself as a tourist destination and heritage town.
While conceding that this would involve the loss of some parking spaces, the plan claims that many of these are used on a long-term basis and, as such, do not contribute to business viability.
It continues: “It is therefore recommended that a comprehensive parking and access study should be undertaken to verify the situation and to explore ways and means to manage parking in the town centre more effectively. This may involve the identification of alternative ‘pocket’ carparks.”
On the town’s economy, the plan suggests, among other things, that Abbeyleix should “align with high quality, locally sourced artisan food products.”
Dealing with the northern (Portlaoise) entrance to Abbeyleix, the plan recommends:
* Open up views of the Church bell tower and the Heritage House frontage--requiring the removal of signage and some trees;
* ‘Soften’ space at road junction by replacing paving with lawn; and
* Road junction radii tightened and carriageways narrowed to calm traffic and improve pedestrian access and comfort--rationalize and redesign road signage and relocate sclupture pieces to Heritage House garden.
Turning to the southern (Cork) entrance to the town, the plan recommends:
* Introduce soft landscape verge and planting to front of commercial premises;
* Thin out woodland;
* Remove existing Cypress treeline and replace with beech or lime trees;
* Rationalise vehicular access to Manor House Hotel by extending soft landscape verge;
* Perhaps provide walking route linking Abbeyleix Bog and Lord’s Walk; and
* Perhaps provide forest trail.
The plan recommends that the green space adjacent to Balladine should be considered as a priority for environmental improvements, possibly including restoring the millrace, continuing the path to connect to Heritage House, establising riparian vegetation, woodland planting and managing open areas as native grass and wildflower meadows.
The consultants note: “Implementing the plan in full will require substantial works and investment over the short, medium and long term.
This requires priorities to be established...opportunities for public-private partnerships should be explored.”
The Abbeyleix Sustainable Communities Plan was prepared by Loci Urban Design, Planning and Architecture, in association with Ait Urbanism and Landscape, and Blacam and Meagher Architects.