Empowering Community Just Transition

LocationBallyforan, Co. Roscommon, Ireland
ClientBallyforan Area Transition Team

Tying a rich history to a hopeful future

Ballyforan is a village rich in history that straddles the border between County Roscommon and County Galway, equidistant from major urban centres like Athlone, Ballinasloe, and Roscommon. Having grown substantially as a commuter village in the time leading up to the economic crash of 2008, the available community facilities have not grown to meet demand. Additional pressure has come with the loss of existing facilities and the phasing out of peat harvesting which provided employment in the area. These changes have catalyzed the community into action to imagine a new future for the village. One that builds on the stories and history of the area and embraces the transition to a green and sustainable future.

ACT worked with to community to define the potential projects and interventions that could be implemented to make Ballyforan a net-zero community and to develop a visitor destination with the concepts and stories of “Villagers and Vikings” “Abbey’s and Artisans” “Tea in the Bog and Taxing Forts” “Bridge to Bridge Walks” “Friendship & Fishing” “Beara Breifne and the Bog” Ringforts and Railways” linking the unique historic past to the present and an ecologically sustainable future. 

Celebrating natural landscapes and historic sites

The area around Ballyforan holds important ecosystems of international relevance. In particular the zone around the River Suck has importance habitats that are protected under EU law. The area has also been strategically important since ancient times as a taxing point as people moved from East to West. The village and surroundings retain the traces of historic settlements, landscapes and buildings that all help tell the story of the village. This provides an opportunity for Ballyforan to become a destination for historic preservation and ecological restoration.

Ballyforan Nature Reserve

Ballyforan’s proximity to the River Suck, callows and peatlands offers the opportunity to gain from the shift towards restoration of habitats which farming in sync with nature. The area can become a hub for nature recreation, learning and research which also aiding in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. Plan includes such actions as peatlands restoration, riparian buffer, setting education, research and bird watching points.

Heritage Trails Plan

Linking the natural with the historic, an opportunity exists to develop a series of interconnecting trails and loops that join historic sites, landscapes and restoration projects acting as link between past, present and future. This wider network would build on the Peatland Restoration Loop already under development.

Uncovering historic layers to reimagine a place to Live, Work, Play, Visit

Originally designed on a grid intended to guide a classical arrangement of streets extending from the fairgreen, Ballyforan's development has deviated, becoming more fragmented in its layout and connections. The structure of Claremont Grounds has also fragmented with the loss of important historic elements. By re-establishing these layers and incorporating people-centric design, Ballyforan can become a better place to live, work, play, and visit.

Project Steps

Historically, the road through Ballyforan from the bridge to the end of the village would have been lined with trees. This was part of the Claremont House Estate grounds and was used as a device to define spaces and frame important views. The overall area of trees has been lost but small pockets remain. Re-establishing this would help restore the character to Ballyforan, add to biodiversity and mitigate against climate change helping to attract visitors to the area.

Pedestrian Infrastructure

The R363 is a busy regional road that goes through the village with many vehicles moving a pace. Mobility generally in Ballyforan is mostly defined by use of the car. This is despite the fact that the village and it’s facilities are very much accessible by foot. Improvements in the pedestrian infrastructure will encourage more active travel trips.

Village Centre Activation

Though Ballyforan has increased in population it has also lost important services like the post office, health centre, credit Union and corner pub. This loss of activity can have a reinforcing negative effect on other services. To combat this efforts should be made to reuse vacant building and activate the fair green as much as possible.

Claremount Grounds

It is proposed to revive this outdoor space by restoring the historic tree-lines, paths and orchard and introducing new facilities like playground picnic areas, glamping, and sports amenities that will support the community, the natural environment and provide a draw for tourists.

Riverfront Activation

Ballyforan connection to the river is an important aspect of it’s history and potentially an important recreational space for visitors and residents alike. By ungrading the existing marina, additional activities can be catered for. This will change seasonally as water levels change.


Vision Development
  • Kevin Loftus
  • James McConville
  • Inna Stryzhak
Vision Development
  • Kevin Loftus
  • Inna Stryzhak
  • James McConville


  • Natasha A. Trice