Chapter 6 - Framework Plan
– a plan that provides a holistic response that builds upon existing assets, directly addressees pressing issues and identifies future challenges. This plan is shaped around the delivery of 10 high level priority actions, followed by a list of initiatives identified to realise each of the priority actions. The Plan seeks to address the key pressing issues, which arose throughout the public consultation and identify measures, which attempt to alleviate concerns raised.
This Plan seeks to complement the Local Area Plan for Abbeyfeale, which is currently being prepared and also aligns with national and regional policy, which seeks to create compact, vibrant town centres across the country that complement each other rather than compete. Abbeyfeale is strategically located, close to large centres, such as Listowel, Castleisland, and Newcastle West, regional planning policy recognises the synergies that these centres have and seeks to capitalise on the potential of developing strong business and community relationships to strengthen the wider region which is supported in the Local Area Plan and this Plan, also seeks to strengthen these links, through clustering of new business opportunities, collaborating on tourism initiatives or peer learning in terms of the delivery of community led projects.
The overall objective of the Town Centre First Plan, is to entice people back to the centre of Abbeyfeale, by putting in place the building blocks, to create a desirable place to live, work and visit, it is anticipated that the priority action, will kick start the action necessary to deliver progress on the revitalisation of Abbeyfeale.
Town Centre First policy seeks to attract people back to reside in town centres, through sustainable compact growth. By increasing the town centre’s residential population, it will help support the wider regeneration of Abbeyfeale, by increasing footfall and demand for services. There is a need for the delivery of high quality accommodation, in suitable locations, in tandem with employment opportunities and an abundance of services and facilities to deliver an overall high quality of living for occupiers of our towns, in order to attract people back to reside in Abbeyfeale. The development of residential accommodation will also provide excellent opportunities to bring back vacant or under – utilised sites and buildings back into active and sustainable uses. The Draft Abbeyfeale Local Area Plan 2023 – 2029 is been prepared in tandem with this Plan, it seeks to redress much of the shift that has occurred in the town and identifies a number of key opportunity sites, which could accommodate significant mixed use developments, with potential for an overall transformational impacts in the town centre.
The Town Centre First Initiative has been developed on the basis of creating a thriving town centre with a strong service and social function. This is based on the principle of the 10 Minute town concept. The 10 Minute Town concept seeks to have all community facilities and services accessible within a 10-minute walk or cycle from homes which are accessible by public transport services connecting people in towns and villages across the country. The development of housing can play a major role in creating strong and sustainable places, as well as supporting key policy objectives around active travel, affordable and independent living and walkable neighbourhoods. Housing brings people and people bring activity and animation. Through the re-use of buildings, infill development, re-purposing of under-utilised lands, within the town centre for mixed uses, including residential, shops or creative workspaces, this Plan seeks to promote the consolidation of the town rather than encourage sprawl. This needs to be supported by investment in high quality pedestrian/cyclist’s friendly public realm and attractive public spaces, where people can gather socially. The provisions of the Traffic Management Scheme will support enhanced connectivity in the town, in particular on Main Street, with high levels of permeability, as well as the delivery of high quality public realm, including paving, street furniture and soft landscaping, to enhance the quality of the environment in the town.
The following section identifies a number of key sites located within the town centre, which offer real opportunity to deliver compact growth, which would support urban living in the town centre, which could be supported by a diversity of complementary uses and high quality place – making, to make the town centre a more desirable place to reside.
Backland development - North of Main Street
This backland site is located to the rear of Main Street and New Street. Pedestrian access to the site is possible via a laneway from Main Street adjoining Murphy’s Bar and has two rear shared access points onto Colbert Terrace. Some of the site is presently in use as a tile centre and associated storage yard. Given its location, the site presents considerable opportunity to allow for improved pedestrian permeability and town centre consolidation through securing a high-density mixed-use scheme. The site presents a real opportunity for town centre living coupled with commercial development. The lands are zoned town centre in the Draft Local Area Plan, which supports a mix of uses, to support and enhance the town centre. The lands have potential to accommodate ground floor commercial uses with apartments on the upper floors. The lands offers a huge opportunity for enhanced connectivity between the town centre and Colbert Terrace and New Street and also potential for some off street parking.
Backland development - South of Main Street (East)
This large backland area presents considerable opportunity for creating multiple redevelopment opportunities within the heart of the town centre. This area consists primarily of under-utilised backlands to Main Street, with several narrow plots, bounded to the south by the Council owned public carpark and Collins Park housing estate. The potential development would allow for town centre expansion, which includes a range of housing types and new commercial uses, with a focus on a new urban civic square, fronted by retail development and over the counter commercial services where possible. A pedestrian street is proposed linking the new urban civic square and the Main Street. Residential developments in the form of family townhouses and apartments could front the through streets. The new urban form should promote pedestrian scale and permeability, with vehicle access restricted to shared space treatment and home zones. Pedestrian links to Main Street and to a possible future public park located on the vacant strip of land between Collins Park housing estate and Cedarville/Belfry housing estates is encouraged.
Overall any proposed development of this area would require plot amalgamation and the co - operation of multiple landowners. The proposal would have to demonstrate a well-planned, integrated scheme for the redevelopment of the entire area. These lands are zoned town centre in the Draft Local Area Plan for Abbeyfeale, which supports a mix of uses to enhance the town centre. Having regard to the scale of this opportunity site, there is real potential for a development of scale, which could have a real transformational impact on the town centre. These lands present a real opportunity for transforming the centre of the town, with potential for ground floor commercial units with apartments overhead. A new link street connecting Grove Crescent to the Main Street, with car parking. There is potential capacity for commercial/retail units and enterprise space, to support a live work environment, which will be supported by public open space, civic squares and pedestrian and cycle connectivity.
Backland development – South of Main Street (West)
This backland site is located to the south of Main Street and to the west of the proposed link road, the site has potential to accommodate residential and commercial mixed use development to complement the rear of existing properties on the Main Street, the proposal also link with public realm upgrades associated with the Traffic Management Scheme and the linkages to Grove Crescent and the has the potential to maximise the use of under – utilised lands.
The lands are located off the new link street and to the rear of the Main Street and in close proximity to the town centre. The lands have potential to accommodate terraced residential family units, fronting onto the new Grove Crescent link street. There is also potential for the extension of existing businesses, which are existing on the Main Street.
Old Cinema Site
The former cinema located towards the eastern end of Main Street has been derelict since the 1980’s. In 2013 the ‘tidy town’ group carried out improvement works to the façade. The building is a Protected Structure and entered onto the NIAH Building Survey of Ireland. It is a Detached three-bay, three-storey Art Deco style former cinema, built c. 1940. Its symmetrical design includes towering pilasters which coupled with an angular parapet wall creates a sense of increased height to this impressive façade. Adjoining properties in the block include O’Tobins garage, also with a distinctive angular facade, with single storey residential adjoining. An extensive rectangular under-utilised open space extends southwards behind the block to Collins Park.
This site has the potential for the re purposing of the old cinema building, for community and/or leisure uses. Commercial business/enterprise units overlooking the open space and shared priority access route from the Main Street to connect with Grove Crescent and Fr. Casey Close.
There is also potential for the development of active recreation facilities to be provided.
High levels of vacancy and dereliction have detrimental impacts on all sectors of society, including, in particular on economic activity, also, environmental impacts, and as social impacts, they also have a cotangent impact on streetscapes and Abbeyfeale experiences a high level of vacancy and dereliction on many of its streets. However, the Council has a proactive regime in place, which aims to tackle the issues of dereliction and vacancy throughout Limerick and
have been working tirelessly in Abbeyfeale, with property owners, to address issues that exists. A dedicated team within the Council work on a continuous basis seeking to reduce vacancy and dereliction, through the various tools available, including the Derelict Sites Act 1990 to tackle derelict. The Council were successful in securing Rural Regeneration and Development Funding (RRDF) under Call 2 in 2019/2020, receiving grant approval of €2.5 million, which sought to address the serious issue of dereliction and vacancy in towns and villages cores, in 12 no. settlements across Co. Limerick. Abbeyfeale was one of the towns selected in this application process. The aim of the project is to bring derelict properties in the settlements, back into use, with the main emphasis on the delivery of housing.
The funding received included financing the purchase or compulsory acquisition of derelict properties or brownfield lands that can be repurposed for housing or repurposed for an alternative use, where housing cannot be accommodated. The benefits of this scheme in Abbeyfeale are becoming evident and the team continue to work through the various mechanisms that are available to tackle dereliction. There are a number of properties at various stages of development within this programme and the Council will continue to progress this regime, subject to funding. The cottage above is located on Covent Road in Abbeyfeale and is an example of a redeveloped property to builders finish and brought to the market for sale.
The other property, currently being progressed through the necessary consent processes to redevelop the property. However, while progress is being made and this is evident in the town, with a number of key buildings in private ownership, remaining vacant and have potential for occupation, which would benefit property owners and the wider community in terms of economic activity and uplift to the town. Reoccupation of vacant and derelict properties can deliver much need housing, enterprise and employment opportunities and potentially new retail offerings, as well as accommodating community uses.
Abbeyfeale has also benefitted from funding secured under other funding schemes, to bring vacant properties, back onto use, including: The acquisition of the former Provisional Bank and its redevelopment as a e-work hub WorkBase on Main Street and the acquisition of the former Bank of Ireland in the Square and repurposing for temporary residential use.
Abbeyfeale’s location on the national road network, the main Limerick – Kerry thoroughfare, brings high volumes of vehicular traffic to the town centre on a daily basis and presents many challenges in terms of the delivery of sustainable mobility. Annual Average Daily Traffic (ADDT) figures indicates that the volume of traffic traversing Abbeyfeale on a daily basis exceeds 10,000 vehicles per day. The town experiences significant levels of congestion on a daily basis, with particularly high volumes during the summer season and bank holiday weekends.
Abbeyfeale Traffic Management Scheme
The Council have formulated a Traffic Management Scheme for the town, with particular focus on addressing the Main Street, addressing traffic calming, enhancing the public realm and delivering an enhanced streetscape. The purpose of implementing the scheme is to improve the legibility of the town centre in terms of improved traffic management, better access to car parking, improved pedestrian linkages and the provision of dedicated bus parking. This Traffic Management Scheme has undergone the necessary consent process and has been formulated with significant consultation with local community and business owners in Abbeyfeale. The Council will seek to implement the traffic management scheme, subject to funding, in conjunction with the local community in Abbeyfeale. The Traffic Management Scheme and associated public realm scheme seeks to redress the imbalance between pedestrians and
vehicles, particularly at key junctions and support the functioning of the Main Street, more effectively.
The Traffic Management Scheme will have a transformational and uplift effect on the town centre of Abbeyfeale and will specifically include: modified traffic lane widths along the N21 and within Abbeyfeale town centre with revised parking layouts, additional traffic signals, additional pedestrian crossings, coach parking set downs and enhanced connectivity. The scheme also includes for significant opportunities for public realm enhancements to the Main Street and The Square.
The Traffic Management Scheme will deliver high quality public realm, where people can spend time, socialise and were businesses can thrive. The project offers an opportunity to redress the dominance of the car, in favour of people, which will play an important role in energising the core of the town centre.
The scheme once implemented will have a positive effect on the town and enhance the experience for both local people, residents and visitors coming to the town through; improved traffic management for the through flow of traffic in the town; improved car parking arrangements; enhanced access to the Grove Crescent car park; increased number of dedicated bus parking in the centre of the town and improved vehicular traffic movement along Colbert Terrace, following the demolition of a building and road widening. Improvements in the public realm will also provide additional amenity space for the community.
The scheme has potential to enhance connectivity and legibility in the town, offering opportunities for greater permeability for pedestrian and cyclists.
Sustainable Travel and Connectivity
As can be seen from the 2016 CSO statistics for Abbeyfeale, the car dominates most movement in Abbeyfeale, however, enabling ease of movement and more active travel is critically important to deliver on ambitions with regards to reducing private car – use, which in turn will have a positive impact on the environment, physical health and reducing emissions. Enhanced public transport and connectivity within the town, will assist in reducing the needs to travel by car, particularly for short journeys, such as the school drop off/collection etc.
The Plan seeks to enhance connectivity through a number of interventions, which will enhance permeability, linking neighbourhoods and key destinations and amenities.
Furthermore, the Local Area Plan identifies a critical link from the Killarney Road to the Hill Road, which seeks to alleviate traffic congestion at the Cellar Bar and would provide for two way traffic with a controlled junction at either end, as indicated below.
N21 Abbeyfeale Road Scheme
Limerick City and County Council is currently working in partnership with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and the Department of Transport to develop a scheme to relieve congestion on the N21 Limerick to Tralee Road through Abbeyfeale. This is an important project to enhance regional connectivity and to improve road safety. Subject to funding, the design process will be developed in stages, with opportunities for the public to participate in the consultation at key stages. The Road Scheme will have a significant impact on alleviating some of the through-traffic in Abbeyfeale. Improved accessibility is identified as a major enabler for balanced regional development in the National Planning Framework - a key element in the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 Strategy. The
project will also enhance the quality of lives of the residents of Abbeyfeale and offer an opportunity for further public realm enhancements once the
reduction in traffic occurs.
Deliveries and Servicing
As outlined above, Abbeyfeale suffers from traffic congestion, this issue is often exacerbated by set down of delivery trucks and waste collection trucks, it is acknowledged that these are crucial to the operation of business and in some cases there is no alternative available, but to set down or store refuse bins on the Main Street, however, these do have an impact on the vitality and vibrancy of the town centre. Time bound limitations on waste collection and deliveries should be considered throughout the Main Street, limiting the operations to outside peak shopping hours, consideration shall be had for utilisation of rear access points where appropriate and landowners working together to address the issue that existing in terms of refuse management and also potential deliveries.
The Traffic Management Scheme and associated works have the potential to enhance the streetscape in Abbeyfeale, coupled with the potential by – pass in the longer term, has the potential to transform the town centre.
Place – making means creating places and focusing on transforming public spaces to strengthen the connections between people and places. Place – making is a process centered on people and their needs, aspirations, desires, and visions, which relies strongly on public engagement. Great places must do more than meet the basic requirements, if they want to foster greater community attachment. A strong sense of attachment can result in residents who are more committed to the growth and success of their community. As outlined about Abbeyfeale, has a strong community that are very committed to developing its people and places, through the Traffic Management Scheme, significant engagement has been undertaken to engage the public in relation to the development of the town’s streetscape and public realm and it is important that this is recognised in this Town Centre First Plan.
Throughout Abbyefeale, there are lots of opportunities for enhanced public realm, enhanced streetscapes and places, throughout the public consultation process concerns were highlighted regarding lack of quality open space, lack of usable public space and poor quality streetscapes. High quality public realm is important, as it supports more inclusive communities, provides space to facilitate events and festivals and it also increases the use of public space and increases support for the businesses that are located adjoining public spaces. The Traffic Management Scheme supports the development of high quality public realm throughout the Main Street. All new developments should support high quality public realm, connecting people and places, creating greater linkages to the town centre and support the enhancement of the town.
Revitalising Abbeyfeale Town Square
The Square is the principal public space in Abbeyfeale, it forms an important focal point in the town, surrounded by buildings on three sites and open to the National Road, on the other side. The space is dominated by car parking, however the public space offers so much potential and held a very important market space in the past. This space has considerable potential to become a multi – functional space, with capacity to host markets, festivals and events. The space is currently home to a small farmers market on Friday’s and a Craft Market on alternate Saturdays.
Upgrading the space, would strengthen the capacity of the space, to host larger events and also to attract commercial businesses to locate onto The Square. The Traffic Management Scheme seeks to rejuvenate The Square, enhance the public realm, rationalise car – parking and install the necessary physical infrastructure to support events and festivals.
Shopfront and streetscape enhancement
Shopfronts are one of the most important elements in determining the character, quality and perception of the streets in towns and villages, throughout the country. The Council is committed to promoting good quality shopfronts, and seeks to encourage that key design principles are incorporated in to the redevelopment or the upgrade of such properties. Abbeyfeale contains a number of traditional shopfronts, which have retained many key features. The Local Area Plan seeks to address the improvement of shop fronts and facades, particularly within the Architectural Conservation Area, which encompasses much of the Main Street. The issue of streetscape enhancement and the development of a paint scheme was raised throughout the consultation, the Council will
work with the Town Team to implement a paint scheme, in association with the Traffic Management Scheme for Abbeyfeale.
Approaches to Abbeyfeale
There are a number of approach road that converge in Abbeyfeale, the most prominent is the N21 National Road, concerns were highlighted that the approaches to town were poor and failed to signify a sense of arrival and work is required to enhance the approach areas to the town. The development of enhanced signage to signify a sense of arrival, is an important element of Place – Making. This plan supports the development of architectural led signage, signifying a sense of arrival in Abbeyfeale.
Local communities are empowered, when they have a say in decisions that affect their lives, places and spaces. An increased level and quality of community participation in local decision-making structures, particularly by the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities, leads to better and more sustainable decisions for everyone. The interface between the Local Authority and its community will be pivotal to the success of Town Centre First Plan. There is clearly an opportunity in the delivery of the Town Centre First policy at a local level to engage with the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), the Public Participation Networks (PPNs), the community and voluntary sector, and local development organisations. The Locally-led approach outlined in the Town Centre First policy is key to the delivery of this plan.
Health and wellbeing of all residents is a key ingredient to having a resilient community, providing the necessary support and working with relevant health care providers was identified as an important element of the Plan, by stakeholder groups. Limerick City and County Council continue to work with local communities to promote social inclusion and celebrate diversity, as the community diversifies, it is necessary that the structures are in place to support new residents that come to live in Abbeyfeale.
A top priority that emerged through the consultation for the town is the need for a family resource centre, it is considered that the provision of such a facility would provide a range of universal and targeted services and development opportunities that would specifically address the needs of families in the community. In addition, to the family resource centre, there is a need for a crèche in the town, there is no dedicated childcare facility for the 0 – 3 age group, with parents travelling to neighbouring towns and villages, to drop children off prior to starting work. This may also be a deterrent for individuals seeking employment and may correlate with the high numbers of unemployment in the town.
Volunteering, in particular, allows individuals to connect with their community to make it a better place and contribute to a healthier and more resilient community. Capturing some of the community and voluntary sector’s spirit, experience, networks and infrastructure in the Town Centre First delivery process will be crucial to its success. Abbeyfeale has a thriving community, with a strong tradition of volunteerism and have led many community initiatives including recent development, such as an educational Biodiversity Park, on New Street and the opening of the Tourist Office in the WorkBase on Main Street,
in June 2023.
Páirc Cois Féile or Abbeyfeale Town Park is a 12 hectare amenity on the banks of the River Feale with over 7km of walkway, an astro-turf mini-pitch, outdoor exercise equipment, pond, woodland, playground, basketball court, fairy park, public art sensory area and many other health and recreational amenities. The Park was developed and is maintained by the Town Park Committee and has been awarded the international accreditation Green Flag Award, in recognition of the quality of this amenity in terms of accessibility, biodiversity and facilities. The Council are seeking to carry out upgrade works to the Multi Use Games Area in Abbeyfeale Town Park at present in conjunction with local community groups.
It is critical that community and social infrastructure is delivered with growth in residential development, consultation with the Department of Education, indicated that the is sufficient capacity at both primary and secondary level to cater for the growth anticipated in Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028. Consultation with the primary school children highlighted concerns with regard to the distance and lack of connectivity of the Town Park and the town centre and the potential for the development of a link, to connect the Greenway, Town Park and the town centre. Consultation with secondary school children highlighted a lack of activities for teens in the town, such as youth club, youth café or youth hub, where young people could gather for social or recreational purposes.
Building upon Abbeyfeale’s existing community and social services, while considering its unique characteristics and history. There is a need to focus on collaboration between local actors, community organisations, and the Local Authority.
Abbeyfeale has experienced challenges in employment generation and the local economy, as revealed by the 2016 Census data. The census indicated that the percentage of the population aged 15 or over engaged in work was 42.12%, lower than the county average of 50%. The town’s unemployment rate stood at a high 14.8%, significantly surpassing the national average of 6.3%.
Notably, Abbeyfeale attracts a considerable number of workers from neighbouring areas, with 836 individuals commuting into the town for employment. This influx reflects the economic significance of Abbeyfeale within County Limerick. Census figures demonstrate a dependency on manufacturing industry, within the town, such as Kostal, which is a significant employer in the town, manufacturing products for the automotive industry. However, changing dynamics in terms of employment sees increasing sectors such as services and education and training providing significant employment opportunities in the town. Recognising the opportunities presented by digitalisation and remote work, the Local Authority actively promotes Abbeyfeale as an attractive location for remote working, culture/creative enterprises, and smart tech industries. Encouraging the town to capitalise on the knowledge economy and foster enterprise opportunities, for example the WorkBase co-working hub (former Provincial Bank) on Main Street.
To support employment generation and economic growth, the Draft Abbeyfeale Local Area Plan emphasises the creation of high-quality employment opportunities, such as those in business and technology development. The LAP aligns with the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy and the overarching Limerick Development Plan. Within the Draft Local Area Plan, approximately 36 hectares of land are zoned for enterprise and employment development. These areas, including the Abbeyfeale Business Park, Mountmahon, Killarney Road, and Railway Road, offering substantial potential for economic activity, however, a significant portion remains undeveloped.
The historical context of Abbeyfeale’s employment and local economy is multifaceted. Over the years, the town has served as a centre for trade and commerce, with various industries contributing to its growth. These have included agriculture, retail, hospitality, and skilled trades. While facing challenges, Abbeyfeale has shown resilience and adaptability, leveraging its unique position in the region; proximity to the River Feale, National Road system and Kerry border.
The business world is changing and how we shop and do business is dominated by technological advances, however, Abbeyfeale has taken a different approach and through the development of An Síopa Milseán, a unique sweet shop, which certainly offers the authentic experience, which is like stepping back in time, with an array of old style sweets on sale, however, the shop also supports a number of home producers and their mission is to support the local businesses and help the community flourish. It’s no secret that young consumers are craving experiences that they can share on social media, An Síopa Milseán, is paving the way in this regard. An Síopa Milseán embraces the concept of experience led shopping, providing the authentic old fashioned sweet shop experience in modern town, led by the community, supporting the community.
The town also supports a Farmer’s Market on Friday’s and a Craft Market on alternative Saturday’s, the Feale Crafters have developed a Co–op, which has brought together crafts people, to take a hobby to a commercial operation.
As the town moves forward, it seeks to address employment gaps, boost entrepreneurship, and attract sustainable industries, by foster economic activity, creating employment opportunities, and enhance the overall prosperity of Abbeyfeale and its community.
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. Abbeyfeale has many attributes, that already attracts tourists to the town, including its fine built heritage, with many buildings containing the unique stucco architectural detail by Pat McAuliffe found on many of Abbeyfeale’s buildings, in the town centre. Abbeyfeale Community Council have developed a Heritage Trail in the town, which identifies key building of historical interest, each of the key structures have a plaque attached outline the heritage assets and a brief description, as identified below. The Community Council shall consider the development of online heritage trail, which guides visitors through the trail and also provides more detailed history via a QR link that can be viewed on your smartphone.
Having regard to the rich history of Abbeyfeale and the significance of the fabric that remains in the town, the community feel that the development of a heritage centre in Abbeyfeale is a key piece of infrastructure that is missing from the town. A feasibility study would have to be explored to examine the potential proposal and a suitable building secured to accommodate the use.
Abbeyfeale is famous for its musical tradition and performance arts. Abbeyfeale is home to annual traditional Irish music and singing festivals, and is home to the voluntary theatre Glórach, which plays hosts to children’s workshops, youth theatre, and many other community events all year round. The local community organise events such the Fleadh by the Feale and Garry McMahon Traditional Singing Weekend and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann annually, it is critical in developing public realm in Abbeyfeale that performance space is provided to accommodate such events.
Abbeyfeale has significant further tourism opportunities, in particular as a hub with access to the Limerick Greenway and Kingdom of Kerry Greenway, the Greenway is located to the north of the town, and is a cycling/walking/running amenity extending from Rathkeale, Co. Limerick into the Kingdom of Kerry Greenways, along the re-purposed former Limerick – Kerry railway line. Public access to this amenity is currently located at the former Railway Station in Abbeyfeale. The Abbeyfeale railway station was once one of the busiest stops on the Limerick to Tralee railway, sitting on the border between Kerry and Limerick, as the system was expanded in 1880.
The Limerick Greenway offers huge economic and tourism opportunities for the town of Abbeyfeale, in terms of the development of tourism accommodation, café/restaurants, and other niche tourism products, however, linking this amenity to the town centre is critical for Abbeyfeale to capitalise on the potential of the Greenway. Accommodation already exists in Abbeyfeale, in terms of Leen’s Hotel and a number of B&B’s, however, there is potential to explore additional facilities, such as camping, glamping and campervan facilities, within the town and environs.
The Council are currently examining the feasibility of delivering a safe walkway/cycleway connection from the Limerick Greenway to Abbeyfeale Town Centre, to promote sustainable mobility and to capitalise on the tourism potential of Abbeyfeale. Options are currently been examined to determine the optimum solution, in terms of making the connection, consultation will take place in the coming months, to ascertain, public opinion on the available options. This is a critical missing link in the town and will assist in attracting additional tourism potential into the Town and also in terms of promoting sustainable travel in Abbeyfeale.
Limerick City and County Council were successful in securing funding to carry out concept development proposals for a Greenway hub, at the former goods store, on the Limerick Greenway in Abbeyfeale, under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) Category 2 call in 2021 and intend to seek further funding to develop the proposal under the 2023 RRDF call for proposals. Proposals currently been examined include for accommodation for bike rental facilities, toilet facilities and coffee dock.
Critical to the enhancement of the Greenway, is appropriate marketing and promotion and working with providers along the Kingdom of Kerry Greenway to collaborate in the development and delivery of packages breaks for Greenway users to enhance the Greenway experience for users.
The landscape of Abbeyfeale is an important aspect in defining the character and identity of the town, situated on the River Feale, at the foothills of the Mullaghareirk Mountains, the town is surrounded by natural assets and potential to connect blue and green infrastructure to enhance the quality of life for the residents of the town. Green – Blue infrastructure describes the network of natural and semi-natural spaces and corridors, located in a place. These include open spaces, such as parks and gardens, allotments, woodlands, fields, hedges, lakes, ponds, playgrounds, coastal habitats, footpaths, cycle routes and water courses.
The development of Green – Blue Infrastructure and in particular the connecting of green - blue assets has multiple benefit for communities, in enhanced biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation benefits, such as carbon sequestration, provides for recreational space and in turn enhances quality of life and mental health, by providing opportunities for social interaction and community cohesion. The Limerick Green – Blue Infrastructure Strategy for Limerick City and Environs which was recently completed, considered the benefits as identified below.
Furthermore the Draft Local Area Plan goes on to identify the key assets for Abbeyfeale in terms of green – blue infrastructure to include: River Feale, Allaughnan River, Abbeyfeale Town Park, Slí na Slainte walking loop, the Biodiversity Park on New Street, the Limerick Greenway and connections on into the Kerry Greenway Network. The Draft Local Area Plan also seeks to examine the feasibility of developing a riverside walk, connecting the Town Park, the Town Centre and on to the Limerick Greenway. This would have huge benefits for the town in terms of linking key infrastructure assets, should this be achieved.
The delivery of additional green – blue assets can be incorporated into all new developments within the town, including new housing development, redevelopment of brownfield sites for commercial or residential purposes, active travel measures, etc. the use of Sustainable urban Drainage Solutions, such as swales, green roofs, green walls etc.. There is also potential for the development of pockets parks, addition of greening and tree planting in the town, which will enhance the overall appearance of the town. During consultation, some concerns were raised with regard to the location of the Town Park, removed from town centre and the ability of older members of the community to walk to the park, without the need for a car. Pocket parks can provide space for local people to meet their neighbours outdoors, the inclusion of seating and trees in a small space can often provide the space needed in the town centre.
Linking green blue infrastructure and connecting up assets is considered an important element in enhancing the quality of life for the residents and visitors in the town. Utilising the natural assets available to the community to enhance the liveability of town is important in attracting people back to live and work in the town centre.
Climate resilience and adaptability is crucial for the development of our towns and local communities, as they develop. The effects of climate change are quickly becoming the biggest challenge facing society today posing a serious threat to quality of life, communities, businesses, the environment and biodiversity. While Ireland’s continues to transition to Net Zero and achieving a climate neutral economy by no later than 2050, there are critical gaps between climate policies that are endorsed and the action that is taking place in practice.
There is no doubt that our climate is changing rapidly and the effects on our lives is becoming more evident, by each season. The response to the effects are wide ranging costs associated with them, including economic costs for local businesses, environmental costs on the local biodiversity and social costs on society. Unfortunately, human activities are increasingly influencing climate change, spurred on by both the need for climate action and energy security.
Climate mitigation and adaptation are crucial elements in seeking to address climate change. Mitigation seeks to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and adaptation seeks to manage and reduce the negative impacts of climate change, local interventions can have impacts on quality of life on local communities. Abbeyfeale has already commenced action with regard to becoming climate resilient, with actions such as the reuse of vacant and derelict buildings, redevelopment of a vacant site for a biodiversity park, installation of a drinking water point in the town, education of school children in terms of awarding of Green Flags.
However, there is room for further action, at a national, regional and local level, in terms of addressing climate action. As identified above, it is clear that compact growth is a key contributor to more sustainable communities, reducing the need to travel and promoting more cohesive communities. Actions such as water conservation, increased awareness and promoting behavioural change must be instilled throughout the community to achieve results.
The National Planning Framework and Our Rural Future recognise the importance of digital readiness in the development of thriving towns and explicable in the Town Centre First Initiative recognises that successful places utilise digital technology to enhance the experience of living and working in towns, enabling greater choice in terms of location and lifestyle. Digital technology can improve the quality and accessibility of services, and can be used to address challenges faced by our towns, providing them with new roles in the digital economy.
The Department of Rural and Community Development commissioned Dublin City University and .IE to conduct a Digital Town Blueprint (DTB) for all the towns selected for funding under the Town Centre First Initiative 2021. The DTB was designed to help towns understand their current digital town readiness and digital competitiveness, compare their town against Irish and international benchmarks and to stimulate stakeholder engagement on digitalisation.
Each town was scored against key criteria, including Infrastructure for connectivity, Digital Business, Digital Public Services, Digital Education, Digital Civil Society and Digital Tourism.
The score for the town was reasonably good terms of infrastructure for connectivity and recognised the benefits of the Rural Digital Hub in the Provincial Bank on the Main Street, however, it did highlight limited availability of public wi – fi, as a constraint in terms of connectivity to digital services.
The report highlights a low level of digital readiness in terms of Digital Business, which examines the presence of local businesses online, the report highlights significant room for improvement in terms of enhancing online trading and marketing of the business in the town. There are supports in place that through the Local Authority Enterprise Office, such as Trading Online Vouchers, Digital Start Programme and Local Enterprise Office mentoring programme, which would support businesses in developing an online presence.
In terms of Digital Public Services and Digital Education and Digital Tourism in Abbeyfeale, the report highlights potential for improvement across all sectors, however, failure from some sectors to respond to the assessment, may have skewed the over results. In terms of digital tourism, the report highlights concerns regarding the lack of or maturity of a digital tourism presence online. The report does highlight the destination website www.abbeyfeale.ie and since the publication of the report a tourist office has opened in the town, which both seek to promote Abbeyfeale as a tourist destination.
The report highlights some gaps and opportunities, which could enhance Abbeyfeale’s digital readiness, which could increase revenue and promotion of both business and tourism offering throughout the town. The spider diagram below provides a summary of Abbeyfeale’s digital readiness over the key 7 themes, which are identified in the diagram below and based on the analysis undertaken in this process Abbeyfeale was given an overall digital town score of 44.
There are opportunities to enhance smart streets in Abbeyfeale, which combine physical infrastructure of streets with digital infrastructure, which provides for better quality of lives for residents and readily available access to information.