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On February 7, 2022, The Irish government published their major new strategy to tackle vacant or derelict buildings within Irish towns, to regenerate town centres and drive future development. 

The Town Centre First scheme is supported by the multi-billion-euro investment spread across major Oireachtas projects such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, and the Town and Village Scheme. The proposal will provide the support and tools necessary for businesses and local communities to become more viable and attractive places to live, work, visit and run a business. 

For the first time, designated towns will gain their own dedicated Town Regeneration Officers, who will be crucial to driving future development. The policy also contains a range of actions designed to achieve key objectives such as social and economic revival in towns, the provision of housing, as well as addressing challenges like vacancy and derelict buildings. 

During the pandemic, more significance was put on local areas and remote working and, as a result, many people have rediscovered the value of shopping locally. 

Some of the tasks undertaken in the Town Centre First scheme will include: 

  • Town Centre First Plans: Support for towns in producing their own Town Centre First Plans, produced by a local Town Team drawn from the local community and business representatives. These will identify challenges, actions, and integrated responses across several themes (business/commercial; community/cultural; housing; built environment; heritage)
  • Investment: Implementation of plans will be supported by a targeted investment programme across Government, including through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) and dedicated funding streams to tackle vacancy and dereliction in particular.
  • A network of Town Regeneration Officers: who will bring a coordinated approach to Town Centre First delivery across the country and support local Town Teams
  • A National Town Centre First Office: that will drive implementation of Town Centre First actions and coordinate stakeholder engagement at a national level and across the local government sector. This office will also be a forum for best practice
  • Capacity building programmes for Town Teams
  • Health Check Programme: a national, integrated and scaled-up programme for the town

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