Chapter 4 - Consultation Approach
Abbeyfeale’s people are its greatest asset, the strong sense of belonging and being part of the community is very important to the town’s inhabitants.
The Town Centre First approach seeks the delivery of a collaborative approach with local communities and the formulation of a Town Team to drive the delivery of this Plan. The Town Team is Abbeyfeale has been fundamental in the formulation of the Town Centre First Plan, it group is representative of a cross section of individuals who are interested in making Abbeyfeale more successful.
Public consultation is a fundamental cornerstone of the preparation of this Town Centre First Plan, this Plan has been prepared following extensive consultation with the local community in Abbeyfeale, which included: drop in open evenings, group meetings, invitations to make submissions, schools consultation with primary and secondary school children, consumer surveys, business surveys and a research field trip with the Town Team to Clonakilty.
The Plan has been informed by the aspirations of local community in Abbeyfeale and the Town Team in particular, the community want to see Abbeyfeale return to a thriving market town, which is busy, vibrant and full of opportunities in all sectors of society. The community recognise the challenges and threats that exists in terms of achieving their goals, however, are committed to the delivery of high quality projects that will make Abbeyfeale, a great place to work, live and visit.
A number of key themes were recurrent throughout the consultation including consensus on the need to tackle vacancy and dereliction, in particular significant buildings such as the Old Cinema and the Old Convent, the needs to reduce traffic congestion through the town and the impact that the constant flow of traffic is having on business and residents on the Main Street. There was widespread support for improvements to public realm throughout the town and the positive impact that it could have on the town centre, with mixed opinion in relation to car parking – many strong views seeking the need for additional car parking on the Main Street and some views that car parking on the Main Street should be removed to allow for further public realm enhancements and free flow of traffic. There was positive feedback around the potential of the Limerick Greenway and the benefits that it is already bringing to the town and the potential for further enhancements through a safe link from the Greenway to the town centre.
Consultation also identified a strong need for family supports to assist the diverse community that reside in Abbeyfeale, particularly a family resource centre, with the associated wrap around services they deliver, also a community purpose built crèche, as there is currently no childcare facility in Abbeyfeale to cater for the 0 – 3 age cohort in the town. Additional infrastructural needs were also identified, such as heritage centre, arts facility, more shops, better playing facilities and more employment opportunities, as key contributors to enhance the quality of life for residents in Abbeyfeale.
It is critically important to involve children and young people in the plan making process and to consult with them on the development of their town.
Children have an important role to play in the building of a more sustainable communities and can greatly add to the plan making process, bringing their unique perspectives to the plan and offering solutions, that maybe overlooked by adults. As part of the research and analysis carried out, a school consultation programme was devised for both primary and secondary school pupils, which was developed to align with the school curriculum’s. The primary school pupils raised many issues in terms of issues of traffic safety, lack of facilities, need for enhanced green areas and connected spaces, while secondary school students, identified issues around lack of employment opportunities, lack of quality housing, lack of retail opportunities and also a lack of youth facilities and supports. These issues have been considered in the formulation of the Plan.