SCSI Call for the Rejuvenation of Irish Regional Towns Through Local Leadership and Collaboration
Stephen Purcell, Director, Future Analytics Consulting attended the SCSI Connected Conference in association with AIB, which took place at Lyrath Estate, Kilkenny last Friday. Stephen presented on ‘Rejuvenating Ireland’s Small Town Centres – a call to action’, a report prepared by Future Analytics Consulting for the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI), which was launched at the conference.
As outlined in the report, the challenges facing Ireland’s town centres are daunting. However, as can be seen from several case studies in the report, they are not insurmountable. One of the key differentiators for towns which have developed strategies to successfully tackle the challenges outlined in the report are local leadership and community collaboration.
For example, a plan and architect-led approach to town renewal has seen the town of Westport transformed over the past two decades. The coherent and collaborative development of the town has given more control over development to the town’s residents and this has resulted in appropriate and innovative design. The many facets of the re-imagining of Westport have re-invigorated the towns, leading to a livelier and more attractive place to live, work and visit. There has also been a positive commercial impact, with vacancy rates now under 5%.
Innovation is key to thriving regional high streets and Naas Regeneration Group established a first of a kind project in Ireland. The Me2You gift card company collaborated with local businesses to produce a Naas Gift Card, which can be used in local retail outlets and businesses. This creates a closed loop, retaining expenditure and profit within the town.
Many of the positive recent changes in the thriving town of Clonakilty have been facilitated by the strong leadership provided by an elected mayor. The Duchas Clonakilty Heritage Group – spurred into action by the dissolution of town councils in 2014 – saw the need for a local champion. The initiative shown by the heritage group has ensured the community has a locally elected representative who can provide leadership for community projects.
The goal of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland in commissioning this report was to start a dialogue and encourage the rejuvenation of the heart of our rural communities. The examples above show what can happen when communities are empowered and local authorities work in partnership with key local stakeholders.
Pictured: Áine Myler (SCSI Director General), Stephen M. Purcell (FAC Director), and Des O’Broin (SCSI President)
The report contains pragmatic recommendations for local authorities and communities. The aim is to offer evidence-based, action-driven advice that can stimulate positive change. This includes reducing the dominance of the car, strong local leadership, proactive planning to address vacancy levels, delivery of broadband, enhancing urban realm and local engagement mechanisms. The report includes lessons from a range of successful Irish towns. FAC are also working with several towns around the country to identify the core actions needed in each community.
A key recommendation of the report is the establishment of an Irish Town Partnership to enable the sharing of best practice, innovation and mentoring from one town to another.
It’s clear many of our small towns need to undergo an ‘Operation Transformation’, but as that programme shows, long term leadership and commitment is required.
The report was underpinned by evidence-based research and consultation with key influencers and gained significant regional and national coverage in the Connacht Tribune, The Independent and The Irish Times. Stephen Purcell also discussed the report on Kfm, RTE Six One, and RTE 9 O’Clock News .
Pictured: Áine Myler (SCSI Director General), Des O’Broin (SCSI President), and Stephen M. Purcell (FAC Director)
The report, which was launched on Friday 30th November 2018 can be found here: https://www.scsi.ie/insight/rejuvenating_irelands_small_town_centres
FAC is a leading Chartered Town Planning, Development and Socio-economic Analytics Consultancy based in Dublin with an extensive project portfolio throughout Ireland. FAC has extensive experience in town and village renewal, town and village health checks, and settlement profiling.