An empty property in Rathdowney -new plans aimed at targeting elimination of the problem
Funding of €100,000 is set to fund a masterplan for Rathdowney that has the potential to be a major boost for the Laois town.
As part of the first ever Town Centre First Plans, funding is going to Laois County Council to work closely with local community groups, retailers and others to devise and develop objectives of their respective masterplans.
The Department of Rural and Community Development says central the plans will be addressing vacancy and dereliction in Rathdowey and other towns around Ireland that selected in each county.
The Department says the focus will be on the town centre and immediate surrounds. Each Plan will set out specific actions and interventions and help unlock national funding streams such as the rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town & Village Renewal Scheme to resource delivery of these interventions.
The funding was welcomed in Laois. Sean Fleming, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, looked forward to the process starting for Rathdowney which has a population of abut 1,300.
"I look forward to Laois County Council working with all in Rathdowney to identify and develop their plan and the positive impact which will be of benefit to the local community, residents and businesses which will now be possible as a result of this funding.
"This funding is about delivering on the objectives of ‘Our Rural Future’ and ensuring our towns have the right plan in place to tackle the issues of dereliction, vacant properties, and above all, to become better places to live, work and run a business," said the Fianna Fáil TD.
His Government colleague Charlie Flanagan TD was also pleased.
"Like many towns across the country, Rathdowney has suffered from some dereliction and the change in pattern in town centre living over the past thirty years.
"I warmly welcome the sum of €100,000 to assist in enhancing Rathdowney Town centre. I urge owners of premises occupied & vacant to assist with this scheme to revitalise the town of Rathdowney & I'm pleased the Government is playing a lead role," said the Fine Gael TD.
His party colleague on Laois County Council Cllr John King said he is delighted that the government has acknowledged that there are serious town centre issues to be addressed.
"Owners and occupiers cannot do this alone, and this funding will help," he said.
Laois Offaly Green Party Minister of State Pippa Hackett was also happy.
“I’m delighted to see Rathdowney among the 26 towns earmarked for town centre mapping. Developing town centres first is a core Green Party policy and we pushed hard to have it included in the Programme for Government. It’s all about bringing derelict and vacant housing back in to use, and enhancing the public realm in a town.
"What follows is more town centre residents, more footfall and better business. I held a public online meeting about this policy in Portlaoise earlier this year, with my Green Party colleague, architect Cllr Lousie Heavin. It really got the conversation going with community and business interests who are eager to revitalise the town centre,” she said.
The masterplan initiative is part of the Our Rural Future – the Government’s five year strategy for rural Ireland. It is also linked to the Government’s ‘Housing for All’ strategy and the forthcoming ‘Town Centre First Policy’, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
Towns in 26 counties were selected based on submissions received from the local authorities.
The Department said the funding will support each local authority, working with a collaborative Town Team, to develop a be-spoke TCF plan to guide the development of each town.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, is Heather Humphreys.
“Our rural towns and villages play a central role in the lives of people in rural areas," she said.
"They are where we live, work, shop and socialise. It is important that we ensure our towns and villages remain vibrant, vital and relevant places.
“Each town selected as part of this initiative will has its own strengths and each will face different challenges as it maps out its future path. No one size fits all policy will work.
“The Plans will be developed in tandem with Town Teams that are representative of the local towns and who can bring a wealth of knowledge and local expertise.”
“I am delighted that ‘Our Rural Future’ continues to deliver tangible benefits across Rural Ireland. We are rolling out a range of investments for our towns and villages, particularly through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town & Village Renewal Scheme.
“The €7 million Streetscape Enhancement Scheme is also having a really positive impact in approximately 120 towns and villages right across the county.
“These Plans being announced today will form part of the Government’s wider Town Centre First Policy which will be published shortly in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
“Finally, I should stress that this is the first phase of funding for these Plans under the Town Centre First Policy and other towns will be afforded opportunities to develop such plans as we move forward,” she said.
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