The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan has contacted the Minister for Housing, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Finance, to examine with urgency what measures can be taken to regenerate provincial and rural towns.
“I am in touch with Simon Coveney, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Michael Noonan to now take a collaborative approach in terms of providing the necessary incentives and support for business growth and job creation and retention, in towns and village centres and to do this in tandem with dealing with challenges in the housing sector.
“I’m very pleased to see in the Programme for Government that the renewal of towns and villages will be a top priority for the Government, as a way to revitalise rural Ireland.
“To deliver on this goal the new Minister for Regional Development and Rural Affairs will develop a new and improved Town and Village Renewal Scheme, with input from the Oireachtas, in time for Budget 2017.
“This is a critical need for re-vitalisation of towns in Laois and a new policy on town centre rejuvenation, including a policy on housing in, and adjacent to, our main streets is necessary.
“Initiatives like the ‘Living City’ initiative, which is administered by the Department of Finance, should be rolled out in towns across Ireland, in order to bring new life back into the towns themselves, while being part of an overall strategy to tackle the housing crisis.
“The Retail Consultation Forum, set up by Minister Richard Bruton as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, provides a platform for a structured engagement between the retail sector and relevant Government Departments and agencies. The forum allows key issues, relevant to the retail sector, to be discussed.
“This is with a view to identifying practical actions that can be taken by Government or the industry itself to support the sector, with the aim of looking at innovative ways to rejuvenate our towns and villages and create much needed employment.
“A report published in March 2015, on Business Growth Potential in Small Towns, from the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, recommended that central Government support local authorities to introduce grant relief schemes, in order to incentivise new businesses to take up vacant properties on main streets, as well as addressing the issue of Upward Only Rent Provisions, among other recommendations.
“The government will work collaboratively to devise a joined-up and innovative approach to this whole issue and I will be stressing the need for such a policy in county Laois.”