RGDATA gives a guarded welcome to the Government initiative aimed at arresting the decline of town and village centres in Ireland.
“RGDATA is concerned that the measures announced today are really only tinkering with the symptoms of a significant problem and challenge that face communities across Ireland,” RGDATA Director General Tara Buckley commented.
The €30m initiative should help with improving the public realm in some town and village centres which have seen significant dereliction in recent years. However town regeneration will need a far more co-ordinated government intervention than merely an initiative which is fundamentally aimed at making towns look prettier.
In particular the Government needs to recognise that the single most important contributor to town and village regeneration is the presence of living communities within these areas. Towns and villages need a resident population to function and support real community living. The Government needs to prioritise measures that encourage and facilitate people moving back into town centres. At a time when there is an acute housing shortage there is ample spare housing capacity in many of our towns and villages, which under the right conditions could be brought back into use with the right targeted incentive schemes.
The Government also needs to examine the role of Local Authorities in preventing town centre dereliction. Tara Buckley, Director General of RGDATA commented;
“ It is ironic that the management and administration of the latest town centre renewal and regeneration scheme is being handled by local authorities. The Government needs to examine the role of local authorities in this area, particularly given that many of the planning decisions and parking policies of local authorities have been significant contributors to town centre dereliction in Ireland.”
Any urban regeneration initiative which does not have the repopulation of our towns at its heart will make an insignificant contribution to restoring the health and vibrancy of Irish towns and villages. Towns and villages need people living in them and the core focus of Government initiatives in this area needs to be on making these places viable and practical for people to live in.
There is an opportunity in the forthcoming Budget for the Government to introduce targeted and practical incentives to get people living in our towns and villages and to underpin regeneration in these areas. I hope that the Minister for Finance will seize this opportunity now and make a real difference to the health and vibrancy of Irish towns and villages.
RGDATA will study the Government initiative and make a detailed response in the coming week.
The Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association - RGDATA - is the representative association for over 4,000 independent family owned grocery shops, convenience stores, forecourt stores and supermarkets in Ireland. RGDATA is the longest established trade association representing the independent grocery sector for over 70 years.
For further information:
Kathleen Cahill, Communications Manager, RGDATA
Direct Line: 01-2887584