The Dáil will today (Friday) debate a Fianna Fáil Bill aimed at revitalising struggling town centres across the country.
The Bill establishes a Town Team in each local authority to implement a town revitalisation plan. It’s part of a wider Fianna Fáil policy strategy published in May, which sets out a bold new vision on reviving town centres and supporting local businesses across the country.
Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen explained, “The sad reality is that town centres, which were once the vibrant heart of the community, are under threat. Crippling rents, unsustainable commercial rates and the continued credit crisis are strangling local businesses and forcing many to lay off staff or shut down altogether. Meanwhile, high parking charges in the centre of town, large shopping centres on the outskirts, and the cuts to local services and amenities are keeping people away from the traditional town centres.
“Radical action is needed to revitalise our local towns and encourage people back into the town centre. The Bill being debated in the Dáil today is one aspect of our larger vision to revitalise struggling town centres. It seeks to establish a Town Team in each local authority to oversee ambitious revitalisation plans.”
This Town Team will oversee:
– Revamping the Commercial Rates system
– Changes the parking charges structure
– Greater flexibility on building use, including an ‘Empty Shops Initiative’
– Changes to planning laws to encourage town centre development
– New cultural initiatives to keep main streets busy
– Abolishing of upward only rent reviews
– A new Purple Flag Strategy on anti-social behaviour
– Greater community engagement on planning strategy in towns
– New financial tools for local authorities to invest in urban renewal.
Deputy Cowen continued, “Irish towns have lost many local services and amenities recently, including local garda stations, bank branches, libraries and local shops. Now, small schools and post offices are also under threat. We need to start supporting our local towns, instead of just undermining them. It’s time for town centres to fight back. I am urging the Government to back our constructive proposals to support and promote our towns.”