A new ‘Town Centre First’ policy, will revitalise towns across County Waterford and benefit local communities, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Cummins 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 Waterford 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.
“The ‘Town Centres First’ policy contains a major new strategy to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres. This has been a key priority for Fine Gael and something on which we have been working hard. Prior to Christmas my colleague Deputy Higgins and I launched a discussion which 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 far reaching 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. Portlaw was chosen as Waterford’s pilot for the town centre first plan and an allocation of €100,000 was made last December.
“It is really 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 and I understand a new call will be opened shortly, focused specifically on support for our town centres in places like Waterford.
“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 Waterford City and 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,” Senator Cummins said.
Publishing the plan, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, said:
“Many of our towns face significant challenges, not least in the wake of the pandemic. Town revival requires a coordinated 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. Major funding programmes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund will help transform towns. This approach will help ensure that across Ireland our town centres can be vibrant and attractive places to live, work and visit.”
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.”