Renewal of our towns and villages must take wider approach

September 19, 2017

A national grant scheme to rejuvenate towns and villages in rural Ireland should be extended so that larger towns and urban villages qualify, according to the Social Democrats.

The recommendation is one of ten solutions the party is putting forward as part of its ten-point Project Main Street plan. The proposals are aimed at stimulating economic development and local job creation, improving the overall appearance of main streets, and ensuring that abandoned shop units are put to good use by businesses, as well as cultural, sporting and community groups.

Karl Picard, the Social Democrats local area representative for Moate and Athlone in Co Westmeath said:

“We welcome reports that funding for the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is due to be increased this this year. But if we are to really make headway in rejuvenating our main streets we need a much broader approach. This means looking at wider issues and how they are having an impact on the viability of our main streets, both in rural Ireland and in pockets of larger towns and cities.

“Our Project Main Street proposals identify ten key ways that we can revive dying main streets. These include things like the roll out of proper broadband, the introduction of community banking services, and stringent enforcement of planning guidelines so that main streets aren’t adversely affected by new out of town developments.

“The Town and Village Renewal Scheme itself only applies to areas with populations of less than 10,000. We strongly believe that the population limit should be raised so that towns with larger populations can apply for the scheme. For example, towns like Portlaoise, Mullingar or Athlone, with populations of about 20,000 each, are too big to qualify for the scheme. But parts of big towns like these could well benefit if they could access funding under the scheme to address issues in specific pockets or districts.”

Mr Picard was among Social Democrats members across the country who took to main streets in towns and villages last Saturday, 16th September, and posted social media images of shuttered, unused or derelict premises under the hashtag #ProjectMainStreet.

The Social Democrats’ Project Main Street proposals are available here.

ENDS

19 September 2017