Minister Joe O’Brien welcomes launch of national Town Centres First Policy

4th February, 2022

  • Major new strategy to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres

 

  • Network of Town Regeneration Officers to drive future development

 

  • Unprecedented investment to make our towns better places to live, work and raise a family

 

  • Suite of supports and tools to help businesses and local communities deliver on their unique vision for their area

 

Minister Joe O’Brien at the Department of Rural and Community Development has today launched the first ever Town Centres First Policy which will be key to tackling dereliction and revitalising town centres.  Town Centres First is a new approach, proposed as part of the Programme for Government by the Green Party, to bring back life and vibrancy to communities and towns across the country.

From large towns, commuter towns, and small towns, it focuses on revitalising and regenerating Town Centres, looking at how we can bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use and creating new opportunities for unused lands that will encourage more people to live and work within our rural towns and villages.

This policy sets out a number of ways in which local communities will be empowered to come up with their own plans to bring life back to their towns. Structures will be established and supported at local level, with funding to be provided by central government.

The ‘one-stop-shop approach in Local Authorities will make it easy for businesses and residents to access supports for building adaptations and renovations, and similar to Tidy Towns, the awards programme for Town Teams will help to incentivise people to get on board.

Welcoming the launch of the policy Minister O’Brien said:

 

I am delighted to see the launch of Town Centres First policy, a significant step towards empowering our communities to create the towns and villages we want to live in and be proud of.

The Town Centres First policy ensures that quality housing, jobs or work hubs, good transport inks, safe and accessible public spaces and climate resilience will be at the heart of how we plan our towns.  Towns like Lusk in my own constituency are set to benefit.

Lusk is already ahead of the curve nationally on adopting a Town Centre First approach due to the leadership of the Community Council and Fingal Leader Partnership in developing the Lusk Vision 2030 plan which was supported with funding from my Department.

Dublin Fingal has a number of towns and villages that could benefit from this new policy and I’ll be doing my part to connect up the opportunities to help bring more life back into the centre of our villages and towns.

The policy highlights the advantages of town centre living, the social and economic purpose of the town, and respond to emerging opportunities such as those linked to remote working, climate action and digitalisation.

The Policy will also be central to addressing vacancy and dereliction in towns and villages across Ireland.

– ENDS –

 

Among the specific actions contained in Town Centre First include:

  • Town Centre First Plans: Support for towns in producing their own Town Centre First Plans, produced by a local Town Team drawn from local community and business representatives. These will identify challenges, actions and integrated responses across a number of themes (business/commercial; community/cultural; housing; built environment; heritage)
  • Investment: Implementation of plans will be supported by a targeted investment programme across Government, including through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) and dedicated funding streams to tackle vacancy and dereliction in particular.
  • A network of Town Regeneration Officers: who will bring a coordinated approach to Town Centre First delivery across the country and support local Town Teams
  • A National Town Centre First Office: that will drive implementation of Town Centre First actions and coordinate stakeholder engagement at a national level and across the local government sector. This office will also be a forum for best practice
  • Capacity building programmes for Town Teams
  • Health Check Programme: a national, integrated and scaled-up programme for towns
  • A Town Centre First toolkit (including web portal): this will provide access to all resources, funding information and best practice models for developing Town Centre First plans
  • Identification of ‘pathfinder towns’: to act as demonstrators of the Town Centre First approach and lead best practice. Towns requiring more support with local stakeholder collaboration and access to investment programmes will be identified at an early stage
  • A Town Centre First National Oversight and Advisory Group: the group will ensure cross-government focus and policy alignment. It will monitor and guide policy delivery and annual implementation plans.
  • Impact assessment methodology: this will help assess the impact of development and investment on town centres. It will be applied to the statutory planning system.
  • A research and evidence platform and agreed data measurement requirements: these will relate to key social and economic outcomes and ensure there is an evidence base for the ongoing evaluation of the Town Centre First policy.