Moate was the hub of ministerial activity on Friday last as government representatives were present in the market town to formally launch the ‘Town Centre First’ initiative.
One of 26 towns selected for the ‘Town Centre First’ initiative, Moate will receive substantial funding towards the tackling of dereliction and property vacancies, the culminating aspiration being the complete enhancement and revitalisation of the urban landscape within.
The initiative was formally launched at Moate library, a former courthouse building. The formerly derelict building, dating back to 1828, was converted by Westmeath County Council. Officially opened in 2016, the library is a vital resource for young and old, bringing people back into the town centre.
Local Fine Gael Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, was present at the launch noting that the initiative was aimed at revitalising towns of Moate’s status, the promotion of residential, business and community use for the centre of towns including above-shop renovation, being core policy attributes of ‘Town Centre First’.
“Moate was selected for the national launch, as it is important to showcase examples of towns in rural Ireland and what they have to offer.
“The new landmark policy contains a range of measures and funding supports aimed at making Moate and towns of similar status more viable and attractive places in which to live, work and visit, whilst ensuring they are social, cultural, recreational and services hubs for the local community.
“The policy contains a range of actions to achieve important national objectives such as social and economic revival in towns, the provision of housing, and addressing challenges like vacancy and dereliction. The actions also support protection of the environment and our towns’ heritage,” Deputy Burke asserted.
Local Green Party Councillor, Louise Heavin, stated that the ‘Town Centre First’ initiative would empower the Moate community to revitalise and regenerate their town.
“The Green Party has long advocated for a ‘Town Centre First’ approach to support local communities to bring life and vibrancy into towns across the country.
“This approach gives the people of Moate an opportunity to shape the future of their town and to influence decision making on things like heritage, our public realm, how we plan the town going forward, how we tackle issues like vacancy and dereliction.
“From a Green Party perspective, this also empowers the community to put climate action, sustainable mobility and regeneration of our public and green spaces at the heart of our ‘Town Centre First’ initiative,” Cllr Heavin commented.
‘Town Centre First’ Initiative Elements
There are numerous core elements within the ‘Town Centre First’ initiative essential to which is the formation of a local town team drawn from Moate community and business representatives. These will identify challenges, actions and integrated responses across a number of themes with the aim of eventual implementation.
A network of town regeneration officers will bring a co-ordinated approach to ‘Town Centre First’ delivery and support the local town team with a central office assisting the implementation of relevant actions and broaching relevant stakeholder engagement.
An established web portal will provide access to all resources, funding information and best practice models for developing ‘Town Centre First’ initiative, while a ‘Town Centre First’ national oversight and advisory group will monitor and guide policy delivery and annual implementation plans.
“Our local authority in Westmeath will play a vital role in assisting the future development and enhancement of Moate’s urban landscape.
“A Town Regeneration Officer will now be employed within the local authority to assist the town team in Moate in formulating their local response and accessing regeneration funding.
“The national ‘Town Centre First’ office will help drive this new approach to revitalising Moate town centre and bring together the relevant stakeholders who can help the town realise a vision for their future.
“Most importantly, the Regeneration Officers will be the link between the local community in Moate and the new large-scale funding streams that are being made available for this purpose, so applications can be submitted and the needs of the town can be matched with the relevant funding stream.
“There will also be emphasis on housing and tackling dereliction and vacant properties. We have seen in Moate very recently Sophia Housing bringing 12 two bed homes back into use in the town and we need emphasis on town centre, above-shop living and grants made available to make this viable.
“I am particularly keen to provide options too for older people and people with a disability, as these categories fall under my remit in the Department. The Croí Cónaíthe Fund is being launched at the end of this quarter to provide funding for this.
“I know there is great enthusiasm within local government, and among community, voluntary and business groups, for the ‘Town Centre First’ initiative approach. I look forward to the local town team, when established in Moate, producing ambitious ‘Town Centre First’ initiative plans focused on delivering regeneration projects that can transform this community for the better as we look to the future,” Deputy Burke concluded.