Section 4 Self Sustaining Towns

opendate_range12 Jan, 2021, 9:00am - 23 Mar, 2021, 5:00pm

4.  SELF SUSTAINING TOWNS

Note: Please click on the links to supporting zoning maps to the right under Materials.

 

4.1      MOUNTMELLICK

It is an objective of the Council to make Local Area Plans for Mountmellick. During the Transition period between adoption of this County Development Plan and the adoption of the Local Area Plan for Mountmellick, the objectives (including zoning objectives – Refer to Map 4.1), policies and standards in this County Development Plan shall apply.

 

4.2      ABBEYLEIX

Population

 

2016 Census

2011 Census

% Increase/Decrease

1770

1827

-3%

Housing Stock

2016 Census

712

Infrastructure

Water

Waste Water

Servicing Road Network

 

Broadband

Water Treatment Plant

Waste Water Treatment Plant (Additional capacity for 1645)

N77, R425, R430, R433 - Proximity to M7 Dublin to Limerick and M8 Dublin to Cork

Fibre Broadband

Social Infrastructure

Schools

Church

Sporting Facilities

Other

4

Church of Ireland and Catholic Church

GAA and soccer pitches, Golf Club

Community Centres, District Hospital, Bank, Post Office, Level Retail 4 Centre

Environment

Conservation

 

Natural Amenity

Flooding

River Barrow/Nore SAC and Abbeyleix Wood pNHA

Abbeyleix Bog, Abbeyleix Demesne, River Nore Valley

FRZ to the north west and south west of the settlement boundary

Cultural Heritage

Protected Structures

Monuments

56 protected structures

2 national monuments

Sustainable Transport

Public Transport

Cycle Route

Local Service from Portlaoise

Cycle Corridor between Abbeyleix and Durrow on N77

4.2.1  CONTEXT AND CHARACTER

The Heritage Town of Abbeyleix is located in the south of County Laois in the plain of the River Nore, on the N77 (old Cork-Dublin Road), approximately 14km south of Portlaoise and M8 Junction 3. The origins of Abbeyleix can be traced back to the twelfth century and an early Christian Abbey located to the south of the town close to the River Nore.

The modern town of Abbeyleix dates to the late eighteenth century, when the then major landowners in the area, the De Vesci’s, found a new town at its present location. The new town was formally planned in a cruciform shape, with an architecturally unified streetscape of 2 and 3 storey buildings of high architectural merit. A wide linear main street, with a central Market Square and planted lime trees, formed the spine of the new town. The market place was established immediately to the north of the principal crossroads which today still acts as a focal point.

The main commercial area is centred on Main Street and Market Square with residential areas concentrated on the southern portion of Main Street, Stucker Hill to the north, New Row/Balladine Row to the west and Ballinakill Road to the east. Painted timber shopfronts with applied lettering where units open directly onto the footpath which makes for a vibrant town centre and also form part of the character of the Main Street. Main Street also benefits from sensitive public realm in the form of lighting, street furniture, landscaping and planters.

The basic layout of the town’s streetscape and compact urban form has remained relatively unchanged where the essential character of the original estate settlement has resulted in Abbeyleix being recognised as an important heritage town and designated an Architectural Conservation Area. Fine structures within Abbeyleix include the Church of Ireland, Bank of Ireland, Morrissey’s Public House and the above mentioned Market House. 

4.2.2  DEVELOPMENT AND REGENERATION STRATEGY

4.2.2.1                   Residential Development and Town Centre Regeneration

The total housing stock for Abbeyleix as indicated in the 2016 Census is 712 dwellings. There has been a slight decrease in population since 2011 (primarily due to a higher number of school goers and an aging population) and new residential development has largely taken place in the form of one off rural dwellings removed from the town and smaller development schemes within infill sites within the town. The Core and Housing Strategy of the Plan provides a housing allocation of 241 units over the Plan period or 4% of the housing allocation for the County. There is a capacity to deliver 60 units within brownfield and infill sites, including mixed use backland sites. A review of extant planning permissions within the town has determined that there are no committed units.

It is an objective of the Plan to preserve the vital function of the town centre and ensure sufficient land is zoned for a mix of uses to strengthen the existing functioning of the town and add to its vitality and vibrancy. Therefore, backland areas within the core area have been zoned Town Centre to allow for a mix of uses, including residential. There are 2 noted backland areas within the town centre – an area to the north west of Market Square, Westlands, and an area to the east of the town centre and south of Temperance Street, Knockmoe.

Fig 4.2: Opportunity Sites

Opportunity Site 1: The site of 3ha includes a protected structure on Market Square and the backland area towards Baladine residential estate, providing compact growth within the town centre. A masterplan was compiled for the subject lands (including a larger portion of land to the north) in 2012 which also focused on compact development and supporting objectives in relation to permeability, sense of place, activity and green links. Any development proposals should consider a master approach to development incorporating the sensitive restoration of the protected structure RPS 084 on Market Square, character of the ACA and also provide a range of services to meet the needs of the community.

Opportunity Site 2: The Knocknamoe site covers an area of 2ha of backland behind the east side of the main street. The site has a number of potential points of access off the Main street and via Temperance Street. The plan envisages a number of town centre type uses and including residential/age friendly housing and community, educational and institutional uses. The site was subject of a planning permission for a primary health care facility, however has since lapsed.

4.2.2.2                   Employment and Economic Development

Of the population aged 15 years and over, 45% are in employment. Unemployment is above the National average at 8.5%. However the town has a healthy jobs to resident worker ratio of 0.77 where 501 local jobs are noted[1]. The main employers in Abbeyleix include Feeney Liquors (IDA Business Park), Abbeyleix District Hospital, Manor Hotel, convenience retailers (Supervalu and Clelands) and the range of essential services providers including doctors, hairdressers, Bank of Ireland, public houses, garages and small shops.

Abbeyleix provides for a wide range of retail/commercial services within the town centre commensurate with its level 4 position within the County retail hierarchy, having sustained the business of a traditional group of retail shops and commercial services, including convenience retailing, banking, hardware provider, pharmacy, restaurants, bars, cafés, takeaways and clothing stores.

Lands available for Enterprise and Employment are primarily located within the town’s development boundary, to the north and south of the town centre, and can facilitate the development of small-scale services and local enterprise. Lands have also been zoned for industrial purposes adjacent to the existing IDA park on the Mountrath Road and in proximity to the proposed orbital route.

The town also has significant tourism potential owing to its heritage status and location in proximity to amenity areas of Abbeyleix Demesne, Collins Bog and Lords Walk Looped Walk and Abbeyleix Bog. Lands have been zoned for tourism purposes to build on this potential, such as development of artisan foods and arts and crafts etc. This potential is widely recognised due to the unique cluster of noteworthy heritage sites and visitor attractions, united with an exceptional picturesque landscape of Abbeyleix Demesne, Abbeyleix Bog and the River Nore valley. Alignment with Ireland’s Ancient East tourism brand is required to maximise the potential of existing natural amenity areas and other heritage towns in the proximity such as Durrow and Portlaoise and market as a broader tourism package.

4.2.2.3                   Social and Community Infrastructure

Abbeyleix has a well-established social and community infrastructure. Two primary schools currently serve the town, Scoil Mhuire and South Parish School. Whilst a secondary school is not present in the town, Heywood Community School serves the local catchment which is located 10km south east. The town also has its own further education and training facility located on the Mountrath Road which offers a range of adult learning opportunities. A number of community facilities are located in the town such as Heritage House, Market House and the Library which have a multifunctional communal, educational and recreational role in Abbeyleix.

Abbeyleix has well established and active community groups within the area and in particular the Tidy Towns Committee. Abbeyleix was awarded a gold and silver medal in the 2019 Tidy Towns competition and the town was also awarded the Irish Water Value Award for Best Small Town in 2016.

Public recreational space is found at Father Breen Park to the west of Main Street and includes GAA, soccer and tennis amenities. Abbeyleix Golf Club to the north east provides a valuable amenity for its members. A playground area is also situated adjacent to the Heritage House overlooking the Main Street. An extensive off-road walking route known as the Lord’s Walk is signposted.

The town also benefits from the significant amenity areas such as Abbeyleix Demesne, Abbeyleix Bog, Killmuck Bog and Collins Bog Loop walks and Dove House Sensory Gardens, and attract nature enthusiast and walkers and hikers from around the Country. Furthermore, Abbeyleix Bog is a significant example of a biodiversity project and encompasses an area of almost 500 acres of diverse habitats including degraded (but recovering) raised bog, lagg, cutaway, wet carr woodland and meadows. The Abbeyleix Bog Project (ABP) conserves and protects the bog which was once threatened with harvesting for peat moss. This project is an open-access amenity developed by volunteers to benefit all.

4.2.2.4                   Physical Infrastructure and Movement

The following essential infrastructure serves the town:

  • Abbeyleix has its own wastewater treatment plant and its water supply comes from the Aughfeerish and Ballyglissen Spring Public Supply and a number of Group Water Schemes.
  • Abbeyleix is currently served by wireless broadband.
  • A recycling bring-bank is located at the petrol station to the south of the town.
  • Support water conservation projects in the town such as the innovative "water ram" project.

The town has seen traffic congestion and heavy traffic volumes in the past before the opening of the M8 motorway. There is also a several roads of objectives, both approved and planned link roads which are illustrated in Map 4.2(a).

A cycle lane is present on the section of the N77 from Durrow to Abbeyleix and in order to facilitate more active modes of transport this Plan will support the extension of this protected cycle corridor northwards to Portlaoise and southwards to Cullohill and beyond. The provision of bicycle racks at Abbeyleix Heritage Centre, Market Square, Abbeyleix Bog, Fr Breen Park and any other areas identified, subject to agreement with all stakeholders is also supported to facilitate and encourage cycling

4.2.2.5                   Sustainable Energy Community and Climate Change

 A Sustainable Abbeyleix – Energy Master Plan has been commissioned by Abbeyleix Tidy Town Committee to aid in the transition of the town towards an energy efficient community. This Plan will support Abbeyleix in becoming a Sustainable Energy Community(SEC) and in particular assist in the delivery the Register of Opportunities (ROO) set out under the recently completed Energy Master plan such as select Abbeyleix as a pilot community for the implementation of the

  1. smart metering programme for Laois which will enable the move to a low-carbon electricity network;
  2. development of smart grids;
  3. support the electrification of heat and transport, local renewable generation and microgeneration;
  4. Support Abbeyleix community to implement a retrofit programme for residential, commercial and community buildings in the town;
  5. LED lighting upgrade at  Abbeyleix Tennis Courts.

4.2.3  WRITTEN OBJECTIVES

Built Form and Regeneration

AB01      Preserve and enhance the special character and appearance of Abbeyleix’s Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) by requiring that the height, scale, design and materials of any proposed development within the village and in the surrounding area should complement the character of the village and not diminish its distinctiveness of place.  New development shall respond to the individual site context and take due cognisance of adjoining development;

AB 02     Retain traditional painted timber shopfront and traditional advertisement styles and ensure that any new shopfronts or advertisements do not detract or erode the special character of the ACA.

AB 03     Encourage redevelopment or restoration of derelict, vacant or underused buildings within the town centre, infill sites and backland areas and encourage the maintenance and use of all town centre structures, especially the upper storeys to secure their longevity and support the town’s vibrancy;

AB 04     Maintain the quality and features of the public realm on Main Street and Market Square and introduce consistent village branding/presentation at the village entry points and along the main streets in the form of high quality signage, tourism information, public art and consistent village type lighting standards which would strengthen Abbeyleix’s identity;

AB 05     Protect individual trees, groups of trees and hedgerows on all approach roads, particularly the Ballacolla and Cork Roads, Ladies Hill, Church Grove and the Vicarage

AB 06     Support the redevelopment of identified Regeneration/Opportunity Sites in the town (Map 4.2(b)).

AB 07     Encourage the redevelopment of town centre backlands to the rear of the Main Street and vacant and derelict site in a coherent manner that facilitates expansion of town centre between adjacent sites, and enhanced retail and commercial services, with opportunity for ancillary residential uses directed to the upper floors.

AB 08     To ensure that proposals for new residential and town centre developments, include specific measures to facilitate permeability and connectivity through new development layout arrangements that provide and contribute to accessibility between developments and between neighbourhoods.

 

Economic and Community Development

AB 09     Advance Abbeyleix as a destination town on “Irelands Ancient East” Route and support further growth of the tourism sector by harnessing the potential of its Heritage Town and Architectural Conservation Area status.;

AB 10     Promote industrial and enterprise and employment opportunities on lands zoned within the town of Abbeyleix and expand the economic base of the town centre by way of mixed use backland development;

AB 11     Support the ongoing development of Fr Breen Park in Abbeyleix as a model for a co-located sporting facility and support green infrastructure principle

AB 12     Support the development of co-working spaces in Abbeyleix to allow the development of new businesses and to facilitate commuters with a “work from home “option.

AB 13     To promote new development and/or uses for passive or active recreational uses within the town that is linked to the use of and accessibility of the Abbeyleix Bog, Collins Bog and Killamuck Bog.

AB 14     Continue the restoration programme for Killamuck Bog south of Abbeyleix;

AB 15     Further the development of a community biodiversity project – “neighbourwood” scheme at Balladine, Abbeyleix;

 

Infrastructure and Climate Action

AB 16     Support Abbeyleix in becoming Ireland’s first low carbon small town and the objectives of Sustainable Abbeyleix – Energy Master Plan.

AB 17     Provide and enhance strategic and recreational pedestrian and cycling linkages and associated street lighting and cycle parking at buildings in community use, especially schools and open up a wider cycle and pedestrian linkages to connect with villages nearby, in particular Ballyroan, Ballinakill, Raheen, Shanahoe and Durrow;

AB 18     Enhance Abbeyleix road network as necessary and reserve land and pursue funding for new orbital/relief routes as indicated on Map 4.2(a) and consider the impacts of the by-pass and seek to manage the traffic movement through the town in light of this change;

AB 19     Provide disabled parking and cycle parking at Market Square to improve access to the bus stop and library;

AB 20     Develop additional community facilities which are flexible and capable of being managed for a number of different uses; in particular youth-related facilities, an Elderly Day Care Service and Nursing Home, community-based healthcare facilities and school extensions or school-based facilities;

AB 21     Liaise with the relevant authorities to provide Heritage Town signage at the M7/M8 Motorway exits from both the northern and southern approaches to Abbeyleix;

AB 22     Continue to support and facilitate the extension of the footpath and cycle path improvement works within the town.

 

4.3 MOUNTRATH

Population

 

2016 Census

2011 Census

% Increase/Decrease

1661

1774

7%

Housing Stock

2016 Census

Vacancy

840 units

129 units

Infrastructure

Water

Waste Water

 

Servicing Road Network

Broadband

Water Treatment Plant

Waste Water Treatment Plant (Additional capacity for 2,168 PE)

R423 (Ballyfin), R440 (Kinnity), R445, (Portlaoise), R430 (Abbeyleix)

Fibre Broadband

Social Infrastructure

Schools

Church

Sporting Facilities

Other

3

St Peter’s and St Fintans

GAA and soccer pitches, Golf Club

Community Centre, library, post office, bank, credit union, fire station, Level 4 Retail Services

Environment

Conservation

 

Natural Amenity

 

Flooding

Mountrath River designated SAC (River Barrow/Nore), proximity to the Slieve Bloom Mountains SPA

Proximity to Slieve Bloom Mountains, Amenity area of the Mountrath River – FRZ A and B runs through the town in a north/south trajectory

NA

Cultural Heritage

Protected Structures

Monuments

41 protected structures

5 national monuments

Sustainable Transport

Public Transport

Local Link, Bus Eireann to Dublin

4.3.1  CONTEXT AND CHARACTERISATION

Meaning Moin Ratha (Bog of the Fort), Mountrath is located at the foot of the Slieve Blooms on the old N7 Dublin-Limerick road, now the R445, approximately 14 kms south west of Portlaoise and 8 kms from Junction 18 on the M7/M8 motorway network. Sir Charles Coote founded the town in the 17th century along the left bank of the Mountrath River or Whitehorse River and it soon developed into a centre for iron, brewing, cotton and farming.  The town expanded in the 18th century with the development of facilities such as the fever hospital and became a centre of significance for the County.

Mountrath has a compact urban form, largely influenced by the Mountrath River, flowing in a northwest to southeast trajectory, and the local road network. The layout of the town has changed little over time, retaining its original relationship with the river and features such as the Market Square. Other historic references, such as the churches and the ruins of the old foundry remain, bearing evidence of the town’s historical significance and historic past. Typically, the town is urban in character with the majority of 2 and 3 storey buildings fronting directly onto the Main Street, one building deep. Mountrath’s buildings are diverse in age, height, roof profiles and elevational treatments. This diversity is particularly notable within Market Square and diverging streets. Many of the building that line Main Street and Market Square are Protected Structures. These buildings are of considerable architectural merit and the planned design of the Market Square provides Mounrath with its most distinguishing feature.

Residential areas have development along the approach roads into the town, most notably along the R430 (Abbeyleix Rd) where many higher density development has taken place. Mountrath also had a significant religious function where the Brigidine Convent located on the Castletown Rd in the early 19th Century, followed by the establishment of the Catholic Church, St Frances. Today the convent has a community and enterprise function where Bloom HQ has been located.

4.3.2  REGENERATION AND DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

4.3.2.1                   Residential Development and Town Centre Regeneration

The total housing stock for Mountrath as indicated in the 2016 Census is 840 dwellings with a level of vacancy of 15%. There has been an increase in population since 2011 of 7%. Recent development has taken place in the form of medium density infill development within the town boundary. A review of extant planning permissions within the town has determined that there are 77 committed. This Plan identifies 2 sites for new residential development which are sufficient to meet the projected housing requirements during the Plan period. These sites have been selected based on their geographical spread across the town, their ability to consolidate the existing urban form whilst utilizing the availability of existing infrastructure and are connected to other residential areas and community facilities. The Planning Authority is satisfied that sufficient lands have been identified to accommodate the household allocation of 150 units.

It is an objective of the Plan to preserve the vital function of the town centre and ensure sufficient land is zoned for a mix of uses to strengthen the existing functioning of the town and add to its vitality and vibrancy. There is scope for limited development of backland areas, however the backland areas to the west of Main Street and adjacent to the Mountrath River offers significant potential. It is anticipated that 30 residential units can be accommodated within infill and backland sites.

The high level of vacancy within the town centre is perhaps the most significant obstacle to be overcome to achieve successful town centre regeneration where the level of vacancy of retail units and associated 1st floor accommodation is exceptionally high; 22 units were noted as vacant.

The Market Square area has a significantly high level of vacancy, with some units in danger of becoming derelict. With this high level of vacancy within the town centre it must be recognised that some of the former uses will not be returning and therefore it is imperative to identify and encourage credible alternative functions for these units, such as repurposing as homes (which may not require planning permission as per the Rebuilding Ireland – Bring Back Homes document).

Whilst the primary function of the town centre must remain and be respected, there is huge potential for the town centre to increase its residential population and foster compact development which will have benefits in terms of environmental and climate resilience.  Other functions could be in the form of live/work units, tourist spin off enterprises and tourist accommodation.

Alternative uses for prominent buildings in the town centre such as medical, public services and social housing should also be considered. Many of these buildings are Protected Structures and as such, careful restoration and sensitive development should be considered. The town centre area would benefit from the completion of an urban regeneration framework to focus regeneration in a coordinated manner.

Fig 4.3 (a): Regeneration Area (indicative area only)

4.3.2.2                   Employment and Economic Development

Of the population aged 15 years and over, 45% are in employment. This is due to a higher than average retired community residing in the town and also a relatively high level of students. Unemployment is above the National average at 8.5%. However the town has a relatively healthy jobs to resident worker ratio of 0.62 where 367 local jobs are noted[2].

Mountrath provides for a wide range of retail/commercial services within the town centre commensurate with its Level 4 position within the County retail hierarchy. The primary retail and services streets of Mountrath are focused on Patrick Street, Main Street, Church Street and Shannon Street. Costcutter and Centra provide convenience shopping in the town centre. Important employment centres in the town include Telfords Hardware outlet, Sheeran’s timber processing plant on the Abbeyleix approach road and the Enterprise Park on the Portlaoise approach road. There are also a range of services including doctors, beauticians, hairdressers, public houses, garages and small shops providing employment in Mountrath. Smaller commercial areas have developed on the outskirts of the town on the approach roads of R433 and R430.

In terms of enterprise and employment, industrial and general business zonings, several areas on the outer limits of the town boundary to the north east and south west have been identified for appropriate development. In particular, the old mart site offers potential for redevelopment of an appropriate use.

Tourism

The town also has significant tourism potential owing to its key location on the Slieve Bloom Mountains Route. The potential regeneration opportunities within the town centre for tourist related purposes offers huge potential. This Plan will support developments that will establish Mountrath as a cycling and outdoor recreation hub for the Slieve Bloom Mountains and to grow the visitor economy in the town by encouraging tourism-related uses, activities and amenities that will contribute to the Slieve Bloom Mountains tourism product.

Bloom HQ

In recent years the Mountrath Community Forum have worked extensively to transform community enterprise opportunities within the town. Of particular note is the development of Bloom HQ which is located in the old Brigidine Convent to the south of the town centre.  The purpose of this financially self sustaining enterprise is to combine a hi-tech co-working space with a community space to promote better work/life balance. The facilities include extensive office space, meeting rooms and training areas which are complimented by a health and fitness centre with a modern gym offering a range of classes including; martial arts, fitness training, yoga, drama and musical theatre. Significant opportunity exists to further the development of this important community enterprise and build on the work of Mountrath Community Forum.