Chapter 6: Economic Development and Tourism
Abbeyfeale town is a service centre for its own community and its hinterlands. There is a diverse range of services in the town, including retail, retail services, hospitality, tourist accommodation, professional services, educational, civic and community facilities. There is one medium size manufacturing enterprise operating in the town, which is Kostal. Other key employers in the town, include retail/restaurants/pubs and the 3 schools located within the town. The RSES identifies that there are strong sub-regional independencies between Newcastle West, Listowel, Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale providing opportunities for economic growth with potential for joint projects to attract investment, for example the Limerick Greenway extending into the North Kerry Greenway; or the Engine Hub co-working space in the former Provincial Bank on Main Street, operating as a part of a network with other locations in Listowel, Tralee and Macroom.
RSES also outlines the importance of the North Kerry/West Limerick/ Shannon Estuary/Clare network for the development of Abbeyfeale, along with Listowel, Newcastle West and Kilrush. Furthermore, it highlights the potential economic opportunities for these settlements, given their connectivity with the Shannon Estuary, the Shannon Foynes Port, and the strategic locations identified by the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan for the Shannon Estuary (SIFP) as part of a Shannon Estuary Coastal Network.
Abbeyfeale is also located within the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), an initiative of the Department of Rural and Community Development seeking balanced economic development strengthening a culture of enterprise and innovation in local authority areas on the western coast. Furthermore, Abbeyfeale is one of the 25 communities located in North Kerry – West Limerick: Smart Villages, Stronger Communities project funded under the LEADER programme for Rural Development. This programme supports communities across the region to achieve smart and sustainable social, economic and environmental development.
Tourism is a proven economic driver, and can play a significant role in the overall development of Abbeyfeale, sustaining employment and providing opportunities for new business and services. The Limerick Tourism Development Strategy 2019 outlines the action plan with relevant stakeholders to revitalise the tourism sector in Limerick, capturing key opportunities to grow the sector. Abbeyfeale has significant further tourism opportunities, as a hub with access to the Limerick Greenway and the North Kerry Greenway offering over 50km of off-road cycleway/walkway through County Limerick and into North Kerry.
This plan provides the appropriate framework for development through the provision of adequately zoned lands and policies, which support economic and tourism development. The Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028 sets out the strategic context for economic development in Limerick. The Limerick Local Economic and Community Plan adopted in 2016 and currently under review sets out the objectives and actions to promote and support economic development and local and community development across Limerick. This Draft LAP zones 1.1 ha for tourism related development and 37.4 ha for enterprise and employment. It is also acknowledges the opportunities of infill development in the town centre for tourism development opportunities including a range of tourist accommodation.
Policy ED 1: Strategic Economic Development: It is policy of the Council to:
Promote, facilitate and enable economic development and employment generating activities in Abbeyfeale on appropriately zoned lands, in a sustainable manner, in accordance with the Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028.
Figure 6.1: WorkBase, former Provisional Bank
6.1 Enterprise and Employment
Together the National Planning Framework, the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Southern Region and the Limerick Development Plan, all place a strong emphasis on compact, smart, sustainable, appropriate and inclusive economic growth in settlements. RSES refers to the inter-urban partnership opportunities of the North Kerry/West Limerick/Shannon Estuary/Clare region that could capitalise on collective strengths to attract and support smart enterprise, innovation and clustering of business across the region. WorkBase, is a co-working space established by Innovate Limerick on Main Street. The digital e-work hub is located in the town centre and re-uses a former vacant building – the former Provisional Bank. This initiative supports modern hybrid employment and business infrastructure, in the heart of the town and supports the local economy.
According to the 2016 Census, the population of Abbeyfeale aged 15 or over at work was 42.12%, which is below those at work for the County as a whole at 50%. The unemployment rate of the town was high at 14.8%, well above the state average of 6.3% in 2016. Of those at work 23.2% were employers, managers or professionals, whilst 42.8% of the workforce were employed as non-manual, manual skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Abbeyfeale has the largest net gain in the working population in County Limerick that is, a significant number of workers commute into the town (836) which reflects the economic importance of the town.
With the opportunities afforded by digitalisation and e-working, the Council promotes Abbeyfeale as a location to support remote working, supporting hubs, culture/creative and Smart tech enterprises. A trend of an increasingly skilled workforce is desirable to generate employment, capitalise on the knowledge economy, support enterprise opportunities and growth in the town. These types of high-quality employment opportunities support higher disposable incomes to invest and spend money on the services within Abbeyfeale. The LAP supports opportunities for employment creation, business and technology development in Abbeyfeale to facilitate economic activity, in accordance with the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy and the Limerick Development Plan.
A total of 36 hectares of land was zoned for Enterprise and Employment use in the 2014 – 2020 (as extended) Abbeyfeale LAP. These lands are located in the Abbeyfeale Business Park, Mountmahon, Killarney Road and Railway Road. A substantial amount of this land remains undeveloped and remain zoned in the Draft plan, to support economic activity for the town.
The form and scale of development proposed on these sites shall be appropriate to their location, having regard to surrounding land uses and scale.
Objective ED 01: Enterprise and Employment Objectives: It is an objective of the Council to:
- Encourage the reuse and redevelopment of appropriately zoned vacant units, brownfield, derelict and infill sites for employment creation, subject to normal planning and environmental criteria.
- Ensure any proposals for the lands zoned for Enterprise and Employment adjoining the N21 include a Traffic and Transport Assessment, to ensure that the local road network and associated junctions with the regional road have sufficient capacity to facilitate the extent of the development planned. The costs of implementing mitigation measures arising from the assessment shall be borne by the developer. Any proposals on these sites shall ensure the provision of a minimum 20m landscaped buffer zone between proposed development and residential developments.
- Ensure any proposal for part of the lands zoned Enterprise and Employment does not preclude the development of the remaining zoning lands. Any proposal submitted on these lands shall include an indicative layout which allows for a coordinated development at Mountmahon.
- Retain sufficient lands around the site boundaries where industrial, enterprise or distribution activities are proposed to accommodate landscaping to soften the visual impact and reduce the biodiversity loss of the development.
- Early engagement with all utilities providers, including Uisce Eireann is strongly advised.
- Promote inter-urban linkages and partnerships across county boundaries, capitalising on collective strengths to attract investment in Abbeyfeale, the wider West Limerick /North Kerry region and the Atlantic Economic Corridor.
Tourism is a proven economic driver, and can play a significant role in the overall development of Abbeyfeale, sustaining employment and providing opportunities for new business and services. Access to the Limerick Greenway has already stimulated business growth in the town. Abbeyfeale’s location on the former Limerick - Kerry railway line; its location on the N21 with connectivity to Limerick City and Tralee/Killarney; its cultural heritage in traditional music, song, dance and drama; and the town’s traditional streetscape with many fine traditional shopfronts and Stucco detail all contribute to the attractiveness of Abbeyfeale as a tourist destination. The Rivers Feale and Allaughan also offer potential for appropriate riverine tourism development, including angling, kayaking and swimming. There is a demand for a range of tourism accommodation types in the town, including hostel, camping and camper van facilities. To further develop the successful unique festival traditions of the town, there is a need to improve public open space with attractive public realm to support the delivery of a quality festival programme outdoors in the the town, with connections to other features in the town, including the Limerick Greenway, the Heritage Trail in the town and the Glórach Theatre.
The Council are currently examining the feasibility to redevelop the former goods store along the Limerick Greenway and to develop a Greenway hub at this location, subject to resources. Furthermore, the Council are seeking to enhance connectivity between the Limerick Greenway to the town centre, which will enhance opportunities for active travel and tourism potential. The proposed town enhancement scheme will also provide for improved public amenity space.
Objective ED 02: Tourism Objectives: It is an objective of the Council to:
- Support growth in the tourism sector in Abbeyfeale by facilitating vital connections between complementary sites, attractions and town centre, and ensuring visitors can easily avail of services in Abbeyfeale town centre.
- Support the provision of a range or tourist accommodation types and infrastructure including, hostel accommodation, campervan/caravans sites, subject to be them being located on suitably zoned lands.
- Support Abbeyfeale’s role in the Limerick Tourism Development Strategy 2019 - 2023 and any subsequent replacement document.
- Require tourism projects to adhere to appropriate environmental and ecological assessment and to mitigate any adverse environmental, biodiversity and ecological impacts.
- Support community engagement in the development of tourism and amenity projects in the town.
- Seek to improve public realm opportunities, to make available spaces to faciliatate the tradition of festivals in the town.
- Support of development of the Limerick Greenway, ancillary facilities, connectivity between the Greenway and the town centre, Abbeyfeale as a Greenway hub, with enhanced accessibility to the heritage and cultural assets of the town.