FAC Play Key Role in new Town Centres First Initiative
Future Analytics Consulting (FAC) welcome the publication of The Town Centre Living Initiative Synthesis Report commissioned by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
This report is based upon research undertaken into six pilot towns to develop innovative proposals that encourage reuse of vacancy and underused buildings, and greater population density in Ireland’s town centres – enabling them to be places where people choose to live.
The six towns included: Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, Banagher, Co Offaly, Boyle, Co Roscommon, Callan, Co Kilkenny, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.
FAC completed the report for Ballinrobe on behalf of Mayo County Council, undertaking primary research and extensive stakeholder engagement. Recommendations to facilitate and encourage town centre living, and a range of potential supports and incentives include detail around:
- Incentivising Private Sector Investment
- Incentivising Town Centre Living
- Building Competitive Clusters
- Making Town Centres More Attractive
- Facilitating Engagement and Awareness
- Using Planning Tools to Enhance Towns
- Engaging Financial Institutions
- Temporary Uses for Vacant Buildings
Key focus areas identified in the Synthesis Report included:
- Building public confidence in the future of town centres.
- Reimagining and communicating how town centres can be desirable places to live, work and belong, for example through a “Vision Plan”.
- Appointing Town Centre Officers and/or Management Teams to assist property owners and to drive implementation of plans for each town.
- Incentivising the reuse of vacant buildings through financial and non-financials supports.
- Strengthening legal supports and instruments to facilitate easier and clearer change of ownership.
- Establishing a cross-cutting Town Centre First Approach which puts town centres at the heart of decision making.
FAC welcome the reference in the Synthesis Report to the EU H2020 +CityxChange project which FAC are currently engaged upon. Many of the issues are common not just to the six pilot towns but to many towns and villages in Ireland, and indeed to settlements throughout Europe as living and working patterns have changed in the last few decades.
Several points in the Synthesis Report, particularly the key initiative around the Ireland’s Town Partnership model, are ones FAC have previously made in our report ‘Rejuvenating Irish Small Town Centres – a call to action’ prepared for the SCSI in 2018, available here. FAC were delighted to be awarded Highly Commended for this report at the 2020 Irish Planning Awards, held by the Irish Planning Institute in February 2020.
It is encouraging to see the translation of the findings of this initiative translated into the ‘Town Centres First’ theme in the draft Programme for Government, focusing on the CTCHC model, Town and Village Renewal Scheme and seed capital for local authorities for provision of serviced sites.
FAC hope that the emphasis placed on this in the programme for Government will lead to legislative change and provision of the funding supports needed to achieve the change required in towns such as Ballinrobe.
FAC have significant experience in the field of urban regeneration with having undertaken numerous Town and Village Health Check exercises across the country including for seven towns and villages across County Carlow (2017); eight towns and villages across County Kilkenny (2019); five towns and villages across County Westmeath (2019); and for Bray and for Blessington, County Wicklow (2019).
FAC also prepared the Health Check study for Callan, Co. Killkenny (2018) which identified focal points and strategies for addressing vacancy in the town centre.
These studies comprised the collation of baseline socio-economic and environmental research on each settlement, with the overall performance of each centre assessed against pre-determined indicators. The desktop research was supported by site visits to each town to evaluate each settlement’s characteristics, in terms of presentation, functions, accessibility, retail offering, vacancy rates, parking, tourism offerings, cultural, built and natural heritage, facilities and amenities.
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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.