Neighbourhood rivalry was plain to see last Wednesday night as a large crowd gathered to hear the announcement of the winners of the hotly-anticipated Longford County Council Better Estates Competition.
In an awards ceremony in the Temperance Hall, nine category winners were announced with Cois na hAbhainn in Ballinalee landing the coveted ‘Overall Best Estate’ award.
Now with 30 estates, the competition which was established in 2005, with just eight estates, aims to encourage residents to take an interest in the appearance of their estates, to take pride in where they live and to encourage a sense of community spirit.
The competition is also an acknowledgement to those residents who have worked tirelessly down through the years on a voluntary basis.
Mayor Sean Farrell congratulated the initiative, which he said worked very well. “Becoming part of a community takes work and takes a whole lot of effort, but we all have to make that effort and take pride in one’s own place. When people do that, each and all is a winner.”
Over the years, a great sense of rivalry has developed between estates with residents regularly travelling to other towns for a sneak preview of how certain estates are coming along. This friendly rivalry was plain to see last Wednesday night as the large crowd waited with anticipation for the winners to be announced (and applauded whole heartedly for each and every winner).
“It helps to keep community groups together working hand-in-hand with the local authority to build solid, sustainable communities where children are now growing up witnessing their parents taking responsibility for their own neighbourhood. This important attribute is then installed automatically in the tenants of the future,” organiser and Housing Liaison Officer with Longford County Council Sheila Tipper said.
Colette Croughan, representing the overall winner, Cois na hAbhainn in Ballinalee was thrilled with the award. “Last year, we won Best Feature for our hanging baskets so we decided to invest the prize money in buying more hanging baskets this year and that got the ball rolling.”
“There’s seven of us involved out of 20 or so houses, and we have great craic together. It’s not just about gardening and painting, we all lived in different areas so it’s nice to come together to make a difference,” Colette said.
One of the most important categories is the community development section. For this category, groups put together a submission which portrays the sense of community within the estate. Springlawn in Longford Town beat off stiff competition from Canálach Le Chéile and Wood View to land this top award.
This year they had the assistance of a Tús worker, who helped carry out the physical elements of work on the estate. In Springlawn, there has been a strong focus on not just improving the aesthetics of the estate but also on bringing all of the neighbourhood together.
“Our target is to create a living estate, to try and get everyone involved. Our new community centre is excellent, in that we can look after disabled people, older people or those out of work. It has created a space for people to get involved and to get out of their homes and just meet people and to get that old sense of community back,” a delighted Julie Kelly, Chairperson of the Springlawn Residents’ Association, told the Leader.
Organiser Sheila Tipper is hoping the widespread appeal of the competition – 30 estates entered this year – will earmark the competition for future funding when local authority chiefs put together next year’s budget.
“Every aspect is under scrutiny, but we’re very lucky in that the members of Longford County Council have seen the value for money from running this competition in that encouraging communities and creating positive estates really works for everyone.”