Greenspaces in Ashbourne – the Story So Far

From rural hamlet to cosmopolitan town

Ashbourne has seen exponential population growth in the past half-century. Founded in 1820, by 1966 its population stood at 139 souls.

Its development as a satellite of Dublin began in 1970 with the building of Garden City. In the years since then, it has expanded to a town of approx. 15,000. It is the second most populous town in Co. Meath, the fastest growing, and is third in the country in terms of the proportion of children that go to make up its population.                                                                                                                    Ashbourne circa 1950                                                                                                            


                   Ashbourne circa 2013                                                  Killegland Street, built around 2004

Initially it was something of a frontier outpost isolated on the borders of the Pale, with a population of young families that far exceeded the capacity of local schools, shops and sporting facilities. By dint of a determination and resilience that is still remarked upon, and working with local representatives and with Meath County Council, Ashbourne matured over the next five decades into a well-serviced, self-sufficient Town, with eight schools, multiple retail outlets, an efficient transport system and 23 sports clubs. On the face of it, an urban success story and a place that many families are proud to call home.

A serious deficit in publicly-accessible greenspace, sporting fields and playgrounds:

But that is not the full story, and much work remains to be done. In particular, there has long been a deficit in recreational facilities for both children and adults. Sports clubs in some cases can no longer accept new entrants owing to a lack of land for playing fields. Surrounded by thousands of verdant acres, the second largest Town in Meath has a serious paucity of publicly accessible  greenspace – there is no public park. Whereas the County Town, Navan, has eight playgrounds, until recently Ashbourne had one, dilapidated and frequently closed. Remediation of this situation has been promised down the years, but the deficit persists.

It is not for want of making representation to the decision-makers that Ashbourne continues to suffer this deficit. The Ashbourne Playspaces Network (APN), was founded in 2012, as an advocacy group working for greater provision of public, outdoor recreational space for Ashbourne residents of all ages and backgrounds. The Ashbourne Community Park fundraising initiative was launched in 2015 with the purpose of raising funds to assist the development of a community park for the town. In 2017 expressions of interest in selling land for the purposes of providing a Community Parkwere were invited from landowners in the vicinity of the Town.  An amount of €650k was ringfenced that year as an initial tranche towards the cost. This was increased to €1.3m in 2018. Moves were afoot during 2018 to secure a variation in the County Development Plan that might permit the acquisition of a particular land bank for a park. The situation looked encouraging but in early 2019 the the process was discontinued and it was announced that the situation would be revisited in the drafting of the new County Development Plan, currently (July 2020) in the process of being finalized.

The Linear Park story: 

The concept of a linear park astride the Broadmeadow had been mooted as far back as 2003. In 2012, Ashbourne Playspaces was formed to campaign for redress in the provision of playspaces in the town, by comparison with other similar towns in Meath. They sought to engage positively with the Councillors and with Meath County Council, and worked to maintain the existing playground while campaigning for its replacement. In 2015 the Council announced the Linear Park project which was to comprise seven zones along the river, incorporating the soon-to-be-upgraded playground in Zone Four. A sum of approx. €1.2m was budgeted for the project. Unfortunately much of the land illustrated in the promotional material was not in the ownership of Meath County Council, and long-drawn-out attempts to secure ownership stalled the project. By October 2019, when the Playground was opened, all of the budget had been spent and only Zone Four delivered – (to be fair, Zone Four was by far the largest of the seven zones). We are not clear what if any are the plans for the remaining six zones; persistent references to Zone Four as ‘the Linear Park’ is less than reassuring in this respect.

Ashbourne Public Greenspaces Working Group:

In 2017 the Ashbourne Playspaces group commissioned a study from planning consultants Future Analytics and submitted it to Meath County Council in November of that year. This is a landmark report, which rewards careful reading. It provides a well-argued, evidence-based case for the provision of a large Community Park in Ashbourne. It presents the quantitative backup, if such were needed, to the charges of neglect and deficit down the years. View this report on our Bookstand at

In early 2018 a working group comprising members of the Playspaces Group, Council Executives and the AMDC was established on the initiative of some of the Councillors. This met twice before it was stood down by the Council executive, following the public protest organised by the Playspaces Group in May 2018. Council executives agreed to participate in another Working Group, provided it was established under the auspices of the Public Participation Network (PPN). 

The PPN Secretariat convened a meeting of interested community groups in October 2018 and asked for nominations to a group which would eventually be established as the Ashbourne Public Greenspaces Working Group. The level of interest was disappointing; whereas 106 PPN registered groups were entitled to nominate a person to sit on the Working Group, in the event nominations were received from the following commuity groups:

  1. Playspaces Group
  2. Tidy Towns
  3. Broadmeadow River Conservation Group
  4. Ashbourne Historical Society
  5. Ashbourne Bicentenary CLG
  6. Killegland Soccer Club

This group presented proposals for a collaborative approach to the achievement of Publicly accessible Parks in Ashbourne to the December 2018 meeting of the AMDC. The membership of the Working group was to consist of:

  1. The group representing the Ashbourne Communities endorsed by the PPN 
  2. A member of Council staff nominated by Meath County Counncil senior management
  3. Any or all of the six AMDC Councillors.

Though the community representatives endorsed by the PPN made written representation seeking to ensure that the Terms of Reference being prepared by the Council would cover a broad scope (not just the Linear Park), when the Terms finally appeared in February 2019 the Working Group’s scope was specifically limited to discussing the Linear Park. This ignored the PPN endorsement, a point confirmed in writing by the PPN Secretariat later in 2019. 

At further, infrequent meetings during 2019, the dominant issue was the quest by the PPN endorsed Community group to have the terms of reference expanded to align with the intent of the PPN endorsement. When this was not forthcoming, the Community group suspended its participation in the broader group. By this stage, active participation by the original six nominees had reduced to half that number.

Regrouping and re-focusing:

In early 2020 the Greenspaces group decided on a strategy of broadening its base of support within the Community. To this end it it encouraged residents to make submissions to the County Development Plan supporting the Greenspace cause, and hundreds of submissions to this effect were made. Earlier in 2020, the GAA Club nominated a member to join the Greenspaces group.

Advised by a senior Public Representative for the area to ‘be more specific in stating what we wanted’, when Killegland Farm was put up for sale at end February, we decided to do as advised and prepared an ‘Expression of interest’ statement which we submitted to the selling agent, and copied to Meath County Council senior management, to all local Councillors, TDs and Ministers, and to about sixty community activists. See the Killegland Park Concept description at

We emphasize that this document describes a concept of what a Community Park with Sports and other facilities might look like. If the site (killegland Farm) that we use as the hypothetical model turns out to be unavailable, most and probably all of the concepts and ideas in the document have relevance to the context of Greenspace in Ashbourne and can be adapted for a different site or sites. 

We received a very enthusiastic response to the Concept Document from the general public. We have sought to engage with the members of the AMDC and Meath County Council Executive to join with us in forming an alliance to to advance the project. While the Councillors as a body have written declaring their ‘support of your continuing endeavours’, for reasons which have yet to be explained to us they are unable to meet with us other than at a formal AMDC meeting. Meath County Council have responded that, while they wished us well, they cannot meet with us at this time.

So, as matters stand (July 12, 2020), we are scheduled to present to the AMDC at their September 8th. meeting. The presentation we submitted on June 23 in expectation of a slot on the July AMDC meeting can be viewed at We expect we will present an updated version of this presentation in September.

In the interim, we will continue to seek engagement with our elected representatives, Meath County Council Executive and work to extend support for Greenspaces goals among the Community groups and residents of Ashburne.

If you wish to support the endeavors of the Greenspaces Group, either passively by simply declaring your support, or actively by volunteering to become involved, please email us at

Last updated July 12, 2020