NATIONAL MEASURES NEEDED TO SUPPORT TOWN CENTRE REGENERATION
RGDATA, the representative association for 4,000 shops, convenience stores and supermarkets has claimed that Local Authorities in Ireland need to up their game when it comes to preventing the decline and decimation of Irish town and village centres.
RGDATA Director General, Tara Buckley said that all too often local authorities have demonstrated no vision for town centres and have doggedly pursued policies that have accelerated the decline of many formerly vibrant towns.
Addressing a conference in Kilkenny organised by the Heritage Council on “Realising the Hidden Potential of Ireland’s Towns” Ms. Buckley claimed that many local authorities have aided the decline of town centres in Ireland by having a short sighted approach to planning and development in town centres and pursuing damaging town centre parking policies.
“ Every week I hear from retailers who express their frustration at the approach of their local authority towards their town centres. The Councils penalise people who want to park and shop in the town centre, while at the same time facilitating usually foreign multiples in out of town locations with free parking. The Councils are also the first with their hand out seeking rates and development contributions from town centre retailers when they extend or renovate their shops.”
Ms. Buckley said that local authorities need to radically change how they view town centres. She said that they need to recognise the contribution that town centres can make from a social, commercial and community perspective.
Tara Buckley said:
“Town centres are important social, economic and community hubs. They are a unique and distinctive part of our character and heritage. In the context of the current debate on housing shortages, town centres are also places where people can live and sustainable communities can function. Local authorities need to recognise and value the contribution and potential of town centres. They need to stop pursuing policies that have the effect of undermining town centres in Ireland and make Irish towns attractive and viable places to live, work, shop, socialise and visit.”
Ms Buckley said that Government had a role to provide national guidance and direction on town centre renewal and regeneration. The Government must introduce national measures to arrest the decline of town centres and aid their sustainable regeneration, she said.
“ The regeneration of our towns and villages will not be achieved merely by hanging baskets and new paintwork. It will require a national approach which recognises the need for targeted incentive schemes to direct investment, a national town centre management programme and adherance to strategic planning policies. RGDATA also called on local authorities to up their game in this area. At the very least they should desist from pursuing traffic and planning policies which actually contribute to ripping the heart out of Irish towns”.
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