Back to the future could be the key to Abbeyleix’s success. In other words, preserving and enhancing its rich architectural heritage.
As the Sustainable Communities Plan points out, the town’s basic form and streetscape have changed little since the 1840s.
That is not to imply that all is rosy. The plan complains: “The character of the town has been eroded in the past by a combination of ribbon development on the approach roads and by “suburban” style housing estates on the periphery that have leap-frogged town centre sites.”
It lists other concerns: “Depopulation of the town centre, vacancy/viability of businesses and shops, lack of broadband, lack of walking and cycling opportunities, lack of local jobs, water quality and traffic and parking issues, habitat loss, lack of midtown open green space.”
The plan recommends a town centre “health check” and the seeking of new uses for vacant premises there.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Abbeyleix has been subjected to the planning spotlight. In the late 18th century, the deVescis decided to relocate the entire town, or village, from its then marshy riverbank site to its present location.
A progressive move it was, resulting in an attractive cruciform-shape, architecturally-unified, tree-lined, wide-street town.
The plan states: “The retention of the essential character of the original estate settlement has resulted in Abbeyleix being recognized as an important heritage town--and the relationship of the town to the estate and its pastoral setting is recognized as an essential part of the character of the town as a whlle.”