By Dan Walsh
A new ‘Town Centre First’ policy aimed at revitalising towns and villages supported by targeted funding for regeneration and support for ‘above shop’ and town centre living has been published by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD.
For the first time, towns will also gain their own dedicated Town Regeneration Officers, who will be crucial to driving future development. They will be full-time dedicated positions within Wexford County Council working with Town Teams and local business groups to design and implement town plans.
Wexford Fine Gael TD, Paul Kehoe is enthusiastic about the policy and believes it “will revitalise towns across county and benefit local communities.”
Deputy Kehoe said; “Fine Gael is working to create stronger safer communities and this new ‘Town Centre First’ policy is crucial to that. It is designed to support the regeneration of our towns and villages with targeted funding to support above-shop and town centre living.
“This ambitious and far-reaching policy contains a range of measures and funding supports aimed at making towns in Wexford more viable and attractive places in which to live, work and visit, whilst ensuring they are social, cultural and services hubs for the local community,” he added.
The ‘Town Centres First’ policy contains a major new strategy to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres. A recent policy paper by colleagues Deputy Emer Higgins and Senator John Cummins put forward 26 proposals for consideration, which could enhance by over 10,000 the number of vacant homes becoming available for early use.
“This major new policy is going to be a game changer for Wexford with local communities and local businesses central to reimagining and planning their own futures through a tailored plan. Our towns will benefit from Government funding, which will emphasise the importance of town centres as the central hub of our communities,” said Deputy Kehoe, who added; “It is important that this ambitious programme be backed up by significant Government funding.
“It is underpinned by multi-billion euro investment spread across major Government schemes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), Crói Conaithe (Towns) Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. Last year, over €410 million was distributed nationwide under the URDF.
“For the first time, towns will also gain their own dedicated Town Regeneration Officers, who will be crucial to driving future development. They will be full-time dedicated positions within Wexford County Council working with Town Teams and local business groups to design and implement town plans. They will also work to identify derelict buildings and assist in bringing them back into use, a key objective of the Town Centre First policy,” Deputy Kehoe said.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, said; “Many of our towns face significant challenges. Town revival requires a co-ordinated and comprehensive response. Through ‘Town Centre First’, the Government will provide towns with the supports, resources and funding to enable them map out a coherent vision for their future and to take ownership of their future.”
The Minister of State for Planning and local Government, Peter Burke TD, said; “Local authorities will play a vital role in assisting towns shape their futures. Town Regeneration Officers and technical expertise will assist local Town Teams in formulating their local responses and accessing regeneration funding. The National Town Centre First Office will help drive this new approach to revitalising town centres and bring together the stakeholders who can help towns realise a vision for their future.”
“We know that many of our town centres are underutilised for housing and have limited housing choice despite being close to all amenities and public services. We are determined to act on this and ensure that we tackle dereliction by providing new and much needed housing supply within our town boundaries,” concluded Minister Burke.