• 04 Feb 2022

Government Launches Town Centre First Policy

The Government has published Town Centre First – a major new policy that aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres. The RIAI was a member of the TCF Advisor Group.

Town Centre First contains 33 unique actions which will give our towns the tools and resources they need to become more viable and attractive places in which to live, work, visit and run a business.

The policy is underpinned by multi-billion euro investment spread across major Government schemes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), Croí Conaithe (Towns) Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

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.

The actions also support the protection of our environment, as well as the heritage and culture of our towns. Read full press release here

The new Town Centre First Policy features two RIAI publications under the heading ‘Examples of Existing Guidance’:

  • In the area of developing a plan-led approach, existing resources include the Town & Village Toolkit produced by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Community-led Village Design Statements produced by the Heritage Council and the Framework for Town Centre Renewal produced by the Retail Forum.
  • The RIAI’s ‘Old House, New Home’ initiative is also another useful resource when pursuing the conversion of historic structures to residential accommodation.

Further information about RIAI initiatives that support our towns, villages and urban neighbourhood is also available from the RIAI website.

Among the specific actions contained in Town Centre First include:

  • Town Centre First Plans: Support for towns in producing their own Town Centre First Plans, produced by a local Town Team drawn from local community and business representatives. These will identify challenges, actions and integrated responses across a number of 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 towns
  • A Town Centre First toolkit (including web portal): this will provide access to all resources, funding information and best practice models for developing Town Centre First Plans
  • Identification of ‘pathfinder towns’: to act as demonstrators of the Town Centre First approach and lead best practice. Towns requiring more support with local stakeholder collaboration and access to investment programmes will be identified at an early stage
  • A Town Centre First National Oversight and Advisory Group: the group will ensure cross-government focus and policy alignment. It will monitor and guide policy delivery and annual implementation plans.
  • Impact assessment methodology: this will help assess the impact of development and investment on town centres. It will be applied to the statutory planning system.
  • A research and evidence platform and agreed data measurement requirements: these will relate to key social and economic outcomes and ensure there is an evidence base for the ongoing evaluation of the Town Centre First policy.