ALL towns and villages in Laois enjoyed improvements on their marks in this year’s Tidy Towns competition, with Castletown top of the county, achieving 301 marks. This is only 11 marks behind Longford town Abbeyshrule which was named as Ireland’s tidiest town this year.
Chairperson of the Laois Federation of Tidy Towns, Noreen Byrne told the Leinster Express that all areas in the county had done very well in this year’s competition. “For the summer that was in it, all areas had a big improvement. With the weather it was a challenge to keep grass cut and places tidy”.
The Tidy Towns competition is not just for summer though as most of the committees work all year round on keeping their areas in tip top condition. “The majority of committees work all year. Once the results come out they are looking to see what comments the judges have made and from those results, that will decide their projects for the year”, added Noreen.
The Laois Federation of Tidy Towns will meet again in Spring and this is a forum for any suggestions or complaints from different committees. “We have a Spring meeting when the weather is starting to get better and we get going for the judging again that year. Before that, the Laois Tidy Towns competition results will be out in the next few weeks. Judging on this was finished at the end of August”.
Noreen said there are plenty of competitions to keep tidy towns committees on their toes for the year. “There is the national Tidy Towns competition and the Laois competition and as well as these there is an anti litter competition. There are so many competitions, people have to be active all the time”.
Noreen said that Laois is definitely heading in the right direction. “There is a lot of potential in Laois, the committees around the county are all very active, with good community spirit”.
Anne Goodwin, CEO of Laois Partnership said that the work was down to the voluntary work of people throughout the county. “If we can give funding towards it we are happy”. As well as providing funding for various projects around Laois, Laoi Partnership has also provided Tidy Towns commitees with people through Tuas and RSS.
One particular project Anne mentioned was the stone faced bridge in Clonaslee which received a lot of praise from Tidy Towns judges in their reports. The money to change the bridge from a metal bridge into a stone one was provided from a grant through Laois Partnership.
“The marks have gone up all round this year and it is fantasitc to see. When the committees see things like this happening, it spurs them to keep going. There is no reason why we can’t have a winner next year, you just have to look at the towns and villages we have, they are stunning”.
Laois enjoyed great success in this year’s competition with two silver medals, two bronze medals and a number of other awards. Portlaoise received a silver medal this year in category G for large urban centres with a population of between 15,001 and 25,000 with 289 marks, up seven from last year. Abbeyleix also received a silver medal in category C for small towns with a population of 1,001 to 2,500 with 297 marks. Both towns received €400 as part of the award.
There were also two bronze medal recipients in the county. Castletown received 301 marks in cetegory B for villages with a population between 201 and 1,000 while Ballacolla received 298 marks in category A for villages with a population of under 200 people.
Killenard won this year’s endeavour award with is presented to places with the highest improvement on last year’s marks. Killenard received 253 marks, an increase of 6.751% on 2011. They received €500.
Of the county awards, Castletown scored highest in Laois, while Ballacolla was highly commended and Abbeyleix was commended.
This year was the first year of the Tidy Towns Hero and out of tens of thousands of volunteers, Ballacolla’s Noreen Byrne was chosen along with 12 other recipients.
Next door in Abbeyleix, the town also enjoyed some extra recognition, as Abbeyleix Supporting Sustainable Communities received the national award for sustainable development. This award was presented by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and the group received €1,000.