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Press Release

Six rural towns to develop innovative proposals to encourage town centre living

Published: 11 October 2018
From: Department of Rural and Community Development

Pilot initiative will complement €1 billion Rural Regeneration Fund and other Government supports for rural towns and villages

Six rural towns have been invited to develop innovative proposals to encourage more people to live in rural town centres. The six towns which have been identified for the initial pilot are:

  • Boyle, Co Roscommon
  • Callan, Co Kilkenny
  • Ballinrobe, Co Mayo
  • Banagher, Co Offaly
  • Castleblayney, Co Monaghan
  • Cappoquin, Co Waterford

​Each of these towns will receive funding of up to €100,000 to engage with their communities and local businesses, and arrive at practical solutions that can be delivered to achieve the objective of increasing the number of people living in our rural towns.

Announcing the initiative today (Thursday), the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, T.D., said:

“Today, I am inviting six rural towns to develop innovative approaches to encourage town centre living. This Pilot scheme will encourage these towns to come up with solutions to the challenges they face and to exploit the potential they have, all with a view to encouraging people to move back in to them. The lessons learnt through this pilot initiative will inform our approach to supporting and investing in rural towns and villages.
“In January, a €1 billion Rural Regeneration Fund announced as part of Project Ireland 2040, will start providing funding to rural towns and villages with a population under 10,000. This is an unprecedented Government investment in rural towns and villages.
“This Pilot Scheme can provide valuable lessons on how we invest in our towns and villages through this landmark fund and other measures such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. We need to encourage more people to come and live in our towns in order to fully revitalise those town centres, underpinned by vibrant communities.
“The €1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund provides an opportunity to take the emerging ideas to implementation stage. The aim is to be in a position to determine the viability of each proposal in the first part of 2019, in advance of the next call for proposals under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
“The Government has invested €53 million in town and village renewal over the last two years, supporting over 670 projects which focus on stimulating economic activity and improving the attractiveness of town and village centres for local people and for visitors.”

Minister Ring continued:

“The reasons why more people do not live in town centres are many and complex. The availability of schools, public transport, recreational areas, public realm, a good retail mix, and social networks, all need to be part of the offering to encourage people to want to live in town centres.
“This pilot initiative will allow six Local Authorities to develop and test different innovative models which are considered appropriate for towns of different sizes and in different locations. The learnings from this approach will help to provide an indication as to what might work well for similar types of town on a wider scale.
“The intention is to look at all of the elements that go into making towns and villages more attractive for residential occupancy, including infrastructure and services, and arrive at blueprints for each town to attract more people to live in their centres.
“These towns represent a broad range of towns in different parts of the country, each with their own strengths and challenges. Therefore, they may well come up with different solutions to meet the needs of their own area.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors

The primary objective of the pilot initiative is to encourage more people to opt to live in town centres in rural Ireland. The initiative complements the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

A Steering Group was set up in early 2018 to examine how best to achieve the objective of increasing residential occupancy in town centres. The group comprised the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Finance, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and Offaly Council Council representing the Local Authorities. Other stakeholder consultations were also carried out by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The consensus of the Steering Group was that the best way to proceed was through the development of a small number of well-planned pilot initiatives that could be delivered and scaled up quickly. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. Every rural town has its own strengths, but also has issues that need to be addressed.

The factors which attract people to live in particular settlements can be many and varied, including the availability of schools, shops, transport and other services. Apart from the need to identify suitable properties which may be available for residential purposes, it is important that the right infrastructure and services are in place, or can be developed, to make the town attractive and safe for people and families to live in.

Arising from the work which has been carried out, a pilot initiative, which looks at taking a holistic approach to town centre living, will be piloted in a small number of towns initially, with a view to a wider roll-out over time if the pilot is successful.

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide an opportunity to take the emerging ideas to implementation stage, if they prove to be effective.

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