An image of Lecarrow Harbour. The village is one of three areas featured in the local Community and Economic Plan 2023-28 which was launched in the Lecarrow Community Centre.

Five-year plan launched for three South Roscommon communities

David Flynn

A long-awaited plan for one large community of three villages which was slowed down through the Covid years was formally launched last Thursday night in the community centre in Lecarrow village.

The plan was overseen by personnel from Roscommon County Council, and led by local politicians, Cllr Donal Kilduff and Cllr Laurence Fallon. The launch night was attended by more than seventy people, which Cllr Kilduff said was around the same number that had been involved at the very beginning.

“After the local elections in 2019, I was approached by people in the community to see about getting a playground developed for Knockcroghery and Cllr Fallon and I joined forces to see if we could get some community development going and we engaged with officials in the council, and have generated a community and economic plan for the villages and parish.”

They worked at the plan into 2020, and then came the obvious block – Covid!

“The wheels came off but the process began with online meetings and it was well attended, and got a lot of feedback to help us create this plan,” he said.

He said there was an agreed vision from the community about bringing about a better quality of life for the citizens of the area. The vision also includes development of the area’s natural and built heritage, sustainably and sympathetically to add to experiences of people visiting the area.

The positive attributes of Knockcroghery, Lecarrow and Rahara were highlighted by Cllr Kilduff, including the volunteer spirit, a strong arts and cultural tradition, walking areas, sports clubs and community centres.

“Community spirit is very strong, and I’d like to emphasise that, it’s very strong,” said the Independent councillor.

He said the feedback from the communities included a need for cycling routes and to link up with other cycling routes in the locality.

There were many requests in the document such as for people to support their local shops to ensure their survival, and potential for a farmer’s market and a need to revive the Lecarrow Pattern Festival, and for more signage in the areas. A suggestion of the development of Knockcroghery’s green and its ball alley was mentioned as well as a requirement of pedestrian crossing, also in Knockcroghery.

Cllr Kilduff said the groups saw many opportunities for the areas including involving the potential to buy derelict and vacant properties and bringing to use, a co-working digital hub space, and a playground for younger children and families.

The vision for 2028 is for a “vibrant, forward looking rural community providing a range of opportunities, places, spaces and services for its community and experiences for visitors to the area.’

Cllr Laurence Fallon is also an Independent member of Roscommon County Council.

“Seventy people at the beginning, nobody fell off, which is the measure of the commitment of the communities to what’s going on and what’s happening,” said Cllr Fallon. “This is about what the people want, and I recognise the work of the county council to provide the back-up services. Everything revolves around the staff, and Nollaig White was the main driver on this. A significant amount of the plan is already done, and in the last five years well over €2 million has been put in.”

He said the plan is a blueprint in how to go forward, and he further talked about the plan, which he called a ‘live document’, which will go out of date very quickly.

“The most dominant elements that came out of discussions was building on the natural land assets, enhance access to water based facilities, improvement of signage, and to increase the attractiveness of the public realm in the villages.”

He also cited the importance of promoting the ‘three villages, two lakes and one community’ through communications; reviving festivals and events, harnessing local quality makers to increase personal income and to add to the visitor experience.

“Many people don’t know their neighbours so it would be good to see such events to have meetings of people and hear new ideas.”

Cllr Fallon said there are many people like himself who are not into sport and that rural Ireland can be a lonely place if you are not into football.

“However the parish has always been involved in Scor and the Singer’s Circle and the Ukulele group was set up, so there are tremendous results in all that, and there is a need for more development for the Arts,” he said. “That’s something that can give great peace of mind to parents and children.”

He said that another suggestion of a sensory garden, suitable for autism and ‘third aged people’ should be looked at.

He also said that one thing that was learned through Covid was about social isolation.

“We might be living on a busy road, but there can still be huge isolation when the curtains are pulled, and we’ve an aging population living on their own in South Roscommon,” said Cllr Fallon.

“We need to establish an opportunity for older people so they can have better social outcomes.”

He talked about less people going socialising to pubs and that Men’s Sheds and Women’s Groups can play a role in people’s lives.

“We have to see how we set up a structure going forward,” said Cllr Fallon, who asked for some volunteers to a WhatsApp group, and to have “occasional meetings, when things arises.”

He told the residents of the areas that it’s critical for them to get involved in the plan.

“Myself and Donal have put the entire community working together behind us on this and I commend Donal for his cooperation with me,” said Cllr. Fallon.

He called on the Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Cllr John Keogh to launch the plan.

Fianna Fail’s Cllr Keogh called the plan “innovative in its approach,” for the overall good of the people and its area.

“This plan identifies the strengths of the areas, landscape, clubs and people, and identifies how things can be improved.

He said that the area’s central proximity to Athlone and Roscommon makes the community an attractive place to invest and live.

“This forward thinking plan is consistent with the aims of the Roscommon County Council’s corporate plan and the county’s recently unveiled local and economic community plan,” said Cllr Keogh.

“Equally important is this plan’s consistency with the goals and objective of the national planning framework and national development plan which focuses on the development of Athlone as a major urban centre, which this community is ideally placed to benefit from.”