'Abbeyleix has reached the premier tier of Tidy Towns' - Judge Report 2016

'Abbeyleix has reached the premier tier of Tidy Towns' - Judge Report 2016

Tidy Towns Competition 2016 Adjudication Report Abbeyleix

Mark 324 up from 315 in 2015

Community Involvement & Planning

The adjudicator would like to welcome Abbeyleix to the 2016 National Tidy Towns Competition. Thank you for the comprehensively completed entry form which was well structured and easy for the adjudicator to navigate. We would ask you for next year to include a list of projects completed in the past year clearly marked on your map. A well annotated, easy to read map is a key tool for any judge on adjudication day.

We are delighted to hear that your engagement with the Tus programme has allowed you have a more strategic role in the towns development with your focus more on your key projects as the TUS worker take responsibility for everyday upkeep and maintenance tasks.

Your 10 active committee members seem to enjoy a good level of voluntary support at peak time. You have included an impressive list of agencies through which you gain support including the Abbeyleix Community and Business forum. Well done. The most successful tidy towns groups tend to be those that are able to harness the skills and support for their work from as wide a range of disciplines and agencies as possible, both at county and National level. We loved the fact that sustainable growing seems to have become such a popular movement in the town with both the community garden by the post office and the GIY allotments visited. Your involvement in the

Applefest Festival is applauded as a means of gathering the community together in a fun way with sustainability at its core. This type of thinking and forward planning allows you direct your resources clearly and positively. Good luck with progressing the Etown initiative as an additional measure to spread the word within the community and beyond of your works. We are so glad to hear that your progress and success in the competition has had such a positive impact on your community and long may the momentum last.

Built Environment and Streetscape

A number of business properties caught the eye including the traditional lettering at the Leinster House, the painted cameo of the Horse and Riders and the restrained frontage of Anitas. Many of the public houses in the town also must be congratulated for the presentation of their frontages but need to ensure they keep on top of cigarette butt management. Ensure the gables walls of buildings are not forgotten in maintenance terms and the upper floor of the Gallic Kitchen has plaster work which needs attention to match the adjacent excellent restoration work.

Try to ensure clutter at upper floors is addressed. For example at Morans the lovely wall mounted street lantern was cluttered with additional lights and what seemed to be a duplicate cctv camera. Your memorials at either end of the town are lovely focal points for you but the obelisk at Market square needs attention with buddleia sprouting from its upper sections which may damage the stonework here. Are there any plans to restore the water spouts?

The memorial to the 3rd Viscount at the Ballacolla road junction is beautifully seen again the backdrop of trees and is complemented by a simple daisy planting palette. The recycled timber bin planters to the frontage of the Abbeyleix Further Education centre enlivened this approach to the main street and we hope the planters will be filled with autumn flowering plants to welcome students back to college. Scoil Mhuire was also looking well and freshly painted although the grounds perhaps could benefit from more trees.

Landscaping and Open Spaces

We noted your intent to develop a herb and vegetable theme and were delighted to spot so many examples of edible landscapes in the town including the innovate bike planter at the Supervalu and the herb and flower filled

window boxes around the town including at Clelands. Could a spot be located to trial an edible hedge using sloe, raspberries or bay perhaps?

This innovative approach to summer colour has earnt you extra marks in this category.

Well done. The muted blue and white planting at Quinns perfectly complements the shop frontage here and showed an eye for detail in looking at the planting as part of the overall façade presentation. Look to advance additional tree planting opportunities in the town as they will be a lasting testament to your investment into the landscape ofAbbeyleix.

We wondered if it is time to remove the metal tree guards from the limes along the main street. As you

say many of these guards are damaged and in need of attention but maybe ask yourselves if the trees need them at all as their design purpose is to protect the trees in their vulnerable establishment stage. One of the guards opposite Anitas is beginning to rub and cause damage to the tree bark. The innovative Tilia name signs could be transferred to the trees. Your bookend projects also demonstrate that you are thinking strategically about your landscape projects and we would encourage you to develop a town landscape plan so that all your future projects contribute to a strong long term landscape structure for your town.

Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities

This adjudicator enjoyed a terrific walk on the narrow boardwalk through Killamuck bog at the edge of the town and found the information boards so interesting. The bee and bee was surely a five star establishment given the complexity of its construction and quality of presentation. The stone railway arch and remnant rails and information board opposite the entry to the bog really sets the context of the walk alignment using, as it does, the old rail line.

Good luck for all your plans here. Dead trees near the finger post here should be replaced and tree ties removed once the others have established. A beautiful bank of wild red poppies was seen on the access road to the town from Carlow.

We are pleased to see that you have taken on much professional advice in this category and are looking to implement many of the practical measures outlined in the national pollination strategy. The use of herbs in your window boxes is one way of increasing the food sources for pollinators and earns you extra marks in this

category as so many centres still use bedding plants like busy Lizzies, petunias, geraniums and begonias which may look colourful but provide little or no nourishment for bees. The practical application of habitat measures by residents of Ashbrook is also commended.

Sustainable Waste and Resource Management

You have done a lot of work in this category so that it is not possible to comment on all your activities in this report.

The towns part in the pilot battery drive is a great place to influence both the community and other community groups if it proves successful for you. We loved the buy local campaign which seems to have brought the business community together. In addition to the Christmas market have you considered the café or spar putting aside a shelf

for locally produced produce- within a 20-30km radius of the town? Buy local / buy Laois. The GIY movement seems to have really caught on in the town and we applaud the effort of all but especially the Jellytots crèche. The community garden was looking very well-tended on adjudication day with its lovely wrought iron entrance gate. As

part of your buy local initiative have you considered progressing a strategy to get traders in the town to switch to recyclable and biodegradable packaging where possible? This can especially be targeted at the food outlets which can produce a large amount of food packaging waste where biodegradable options are increasingly available. We

noted the tidy town’s rainwater harvesting tank in the courtyard at the entrance to the community garden. Again well done in harnessing the skills of you community in gaining advice and support from your local engineer to advance the ram water harvesting project.

Tidiness and Litter Control

Again Abbeyleix presented a very tidy and clutter free vision to the adjudicator on their visit. Well done to the TUS workers for all the effort involved. Have a look at bins in the town and see if any are underused and could be removed. We wondered if the bin at the entrance to Balladine Heights was used much or could it be removed to

reduce clutter at the entrance to this well maintained residential estate. Some of the green bins on the main street are beginning to look shabby with peeling paint. We note some empty premises near the library and hope these will find new life soon. If sites or premises are to be vacant for any period of time try to encourage the appropriate

maintenance of public areas. For example the mid terrace property at Pembroke Terrance would benefit from some hand weeding to tidy up its paved front garden area in the short term as the window works proceed. The town information sign in the car park at the sports ground is looking a little tired and should be replaced and repositioned

away from a car parking space so it is accessible to all. Consider if the carpark was full, a wheelchair user or parent with pram may not be able to gain access to read the sign.

Residential Streets & Housing Areas

There are a range of residential types in town and they were presented to a high standard on adjudication day. A beautiful hydrangea filled front garden on the main street was particularly admired. The central green at Abbey Crescent was neat and well looked after. We particularly loved the fantastic arboretum developing along the extra

wide grass verges at the Fairways. Continued good luck to the residents of Ashbrook Estate in implementing their habitat management plan, in order to improve the biodiversity around their homes. Again your residents committees are all to be commended for the high standards seen by the adjudicator on the day.

Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes

For a long time traffic has been a major problem in Abbeyleix. Despite construction of the M7/8 motorway, traffic through the village on adjudication day was still relatively heavy. However the well-executed paving palette and street tree planting along the main street reduce the impact of traffic somewhat by having a high quality finish in the

public realm. The simple palette of stone kerbs, slabs, and sett paving have aged well and complement your town. The use of a warmer tone granite around the Library highlights its prominent position in the town. Street signage was generally good but we were confused by a side by side 50 and 30kph speed limit sign conflicting on the R425

just before the heritage centre. Tubs with ladies mantle were a simple and neat treatment to the seating areas along the main street. Ensure all trees planted as part of your southern gateway projects are replaced if they fail. The northern bookend project by the heritage centre was looking very well with perennial plants filling the space nicely

around your 1916 commemoration. Perhaps more perennials could be added here to reduce the maintenance burden of looking after the small grass strips between the circle and the kerb.

Concluding Remarks

Well done to all involved in this year’s application and thank you for your hard work and commitment which was clearly visible during my very enjoyable visit. With your positive approach to projects for the benefit of the whole community, we see no reason why Abbeyleix shouldn’t really advance in the competition. We look forward to seeing

your planned projects progressed in 2017.

Second Round Adjudication:

Abbeyleix has reached the premier tier of Tidy Towns entrants. This has come about from the continuous application of good ideas in the projects. It is due to the consistency of the work also but, above all, what now really impresses is the level of the local involvement. That engagement is necessary to achieve such a high standard

throughout the town. Well done. The back drop of the town’s heritage buildings and fine civic spaces have been carefully used. These have been

sensitively enhanced, especially by the use of appropriate colour schemes.

Nearly all of the residential properties were praised for the fine settings afforded to the houses. Within the estates the public open spaces looked really well on account of the high quality and sensible choice of the tree planting. We admired the extent of refurbishment undertaken in regard to the shopfronts and business premises. The

heritage trust signs proved very useful in pinpointing several features.

Amongst your foremost projects is the community garden. This was a real eye-opener for us. It is a delightful place,

forming a quiet oasis off the main street. Its extent, perched on a spacious site, makes it a fine community asset. The sloping aspect must help in providing better drainage. We were impressed at the variety and range of the crops you have produced . The timber pallet seats and the plastic pipe propagation system were both praised as well as the water harvesting . All in all , this is community cooperation at its best. Congratulations to all involved.