For Oral Answer on : 25/04/2023
Question Number(s): 83 Question Reference(s): 19231/23
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
* To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will outline the work being undertaken by her Department to address vacancy and dereliction in rural towns and villages; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– David Stanton T.D.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 25 April, 2023.
The Town Centre First Policy is a major cross-government policy that aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres. It supports the Our Rural Future vision for a thriving rural Ireland which is integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development.
My Department co-chairs the National Oversight and Advisory Group for the policy with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. This Group seeks to oversee the delivery of the policy and ensures there is clear stakeholder visibility in relation to implementation. The Group met for the first time in December and is due to meet again this month.
The establishment of the National Implementation Office is key to the success of the policy.
The Office supports Town Regeneration Officers in driving implementation at a local level and coordinates stakeholder engagement. This structure has now been put in place within the Local Government Management Association, and my officials are in ongoing contact with the National Office.
A key aim of both the Town Centre First, and the Our Rural Future Policy is addressing vacancy and dereliction in rural towns and villages across the country, and ensuring that the policies and schemes in place directly address and tackle these issues. This complements other national policies such as Housing for All and the National Planning Framework which also aim at tackling vacancy in rural towns and villages as well as supporting local communities.
Central to the Town Centre First approach is the range of support funding in place, including my Department’s Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
Last November I announced funding of €115m for regeneration projects across rural towns under my Department’s Rural Regeneration and Development Fund for 2023. These projects include a focus on combating vacancy and dereliction by regenerating iconic town centre buildings such as old hotels, banks, schools, and courthouses.
Similarly, last December I announced €27 million in funding to combat dereliction and breathe new life into rural towns and villages under the 2022 Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
In 2023, the schemes implemented by my Department will continue to support the Town Centre First approach and will prioritise addressing vacancy and dereliction. For example, last month I launched the 2023 Building Acquisition Measure, which will allow local authorities across the country to purchase up to three buildings up to a total grant value of €500,000. This call for applications is now open and local authorities have until 28 April 2023 to submit applications.
Scheme priorities are reviewed at the end of each scheme year and the review process for the 2023 Town and Village Renewal Scheme is currently at an advanced stage. I intend to launch the 2023 scheme in June of this year and local community groups can then submit their proposals through their local authority for funding under the scheme.
My Department remains committed to the success of the Town Centre First policy to deliver on the goal of revitalising rural towns and villages as set out in Our Rural Future.