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Birr Tidy Towns was "delighted and disappointed" and is aiming higher

Thursday, 19 October 2017

THE TASK of improving how Birr looks and increasing the town's points in the national Tidy Towns competition was discussed during the October meeting of Birr 20/20.

"We were delighted that our marks this year increased by four to 302", said Cllr John Carroll, Chairman, "but we were disappointed that we didn't get an award."

He said that for the first time Birr broke the 300 marks barrier and the town is not far off winning a category award.

He outlined the good and the bad of the adjudicator's report. The good was achieving 96 per cent in the Environment and Streetscape section. The bad was only receiving 16 points out of a possible 50 in the Sustainable Waste and Resource Management section. "This was only 32 per cent of the possible marks. Therefore, there is massive room for improvement in this section."

There is also considerable room for improvement in the Tidiness and Litter Control section which achieved just a middle of the road result and was up by one point on last year.

Cllr Carroll praised Bernie Fanneran of Birr Tidy Towns for being so enthusiastic and being such a hard worker. 

He said 200 people turned out for the committee's Awards night which showed how important the concept of Tidy Towns and improving one's surroundings is for people. He also praised Tony McLoughlin, who has been Chair of Birr Tidy Towns for many years and has a massive amount of love for his town and a big sense of community spirit. 

The councillor pointed out that Birr Tidy Towns has advanced significantly over the last few years and they are on the cusp of something great.

Bernie Fanneran brought us through a slide show of all the work which Tidy Towns has done over the last couple of years and it was very impressive to see how much was done, all on a voluntary basis. She pointed out that the rejuvenated cottages on Burke's Hill are a matter of considerable pride and affection. "They have become something of an icon for the committee."

Another project was improving the facade of a shop on Connaught Street, which was sold after the improvement works were done.

She said the committee collaborated with several clubs on a number of projects. For example, the GAA painted the wall of their stadium on Roscrea Road which looks a lot better.

Other projects included the windows on Crotty Church, the Quaker Graveyard on High Street (the headstones for which are in Rosenallis), washing and painting the railings at the courthouse, painting the chains on John's Mall (the decorative balls were replaced here after being knocked off by a vehicle), planting of the bank beside the castle wall on Castle Street with catmint (Salters Sterling pointed out that buddleia would look well with the catmint and would attract butterflies), the painting of a wall in McAuley Drive, painting of park benches, and working with the Primary Schools to raise awareness and create projects.

 Men's Shed created a fairy trail on Mill Island which included a fairy hotel. The fairy trail is a popular feature.

The sensory garden at the old Hospital was also of note.

The winner of the Tidy Towns awards in the town was the Social Club which did a fabulous job on Eden Row corner.

 With all that good work it was unfortunate that a few small things brought the town's marks down. The adjudicators pointed to a field near Lidl on Tullamore Road which contained a considerable amount of litter. The Roscrea Road approach road could also do with some improving and the trees on this stretch of road are a cause for concern. The Skatepark near Tesco's has become a litter problem. The back of the houses at Drumbane don't look great and screening work is needed. There is an excessive amount of signage in the town.

Bernie pointed out that the Council workers are very good but there is not enough staff. Cllr Carroll said there will be some recruitment of new Council workers in the next few months. He told the meeting that the post of Director of Services for the area has yet to be filled. "A lack of staff and insufficient finance is the Council's biggest problem," he said.

Salters Sterling said the weeding at the box hedges on Tullamore Road was overlooked this year.

 Bernie said the adjudicators visited on the 11th of June which was early and before a lot of good work was done around the town. She said that unfortunately salting adversely affects the Tullamore Road box hedges. Cllr Carroll commented that the box hedges slow down the traffic, which is a good thing, but it would be nice if they looked better. He added that there are a number of shabby looking derelict houses around the town.

Frances Kawala said Insect Hotels should be placed in more visible locations. She said there is no bus shelter for people to shelter from the weather.

Adrian Haines commented that Birr is one of the few towns in the midlands with no LED lighting.

Bernie said this year's national winners, Birdhill (which was awarded 332 points) has a population of just 48 and they are known for their flower displays. 

 She added that it's a pity Christmas lights are not permitted on the Emmet Square monument.

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