Towns and villages across the country face many challenges in creating vibrant, thriving town centres.

Addressing the challenges of town centre renewal was identified as a key issue by members of the Retail Consultation Forum as a means of strengthening recovery in the retail sector, both in terms of sustainable jobs growth and retail sales. The Retail Consultation Forum is an initiative of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, established to provide a platform for structured engagement between the Retail sector and relevant Government Departments/bodies. The Retail and Town Centre Renewal Working Group, as part of the Retail Consultation Forum, was set up to examine and identify practical ways to give effect to recommendations that focused on making towns and village centres better places to work, shop and live in. The objective of the Working Group was to develop a Framework for Town Centre Renewal.

The Framework, published in 2017, sets out the key characteristics of a successful town centre and identifies both existing supports and best practice examples from around the country. The Framework includes an Action Plan for Town Centre Renewal which is intended to be a blueprint for policy makers, Local Authorities and key stakeholders in towns and villages, guiding them through the three stages of town centre renewal:

1.       Stakeholder Engagement and Health Check – The first step is to prepare a database of all key stakeholders in order to engage with them as part of the Health Check. Carrying out a Health Check will give the stakeholders vital information on the key attributes and opportunities within the town, which will help inform a Town Centre Plan.

2.       Establish a Town Centre Management Partnership of “town team” – A core group of key stakeholders should be brought together as a Town Team or Partnership to oversee the recommendations of the Health Check and development of a Town Centre Renewal Plan.

3.       Prepare and Implement a Town Centre Plan – The Town Team needs to prepare a Town Centre Plan which sets out the vision for the town, the strategy of key objectives, priority projects and measurable goals or Key Performance Indicators. The Plan needs to be implemented, monitored, and reviewed.

The Framework also includes a number of case studies which provide practical examples of best practice from a number of towns and villages around the country which demonstrate the significant improvements that can be achieved through the dedication and hard work of the people throughout Ireland who are passionate about their town or village. A key output of the Retail Consultation Forum in 2017, the full Framework document can be downloaded at www.dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/A-Framework-for-Town-Centre-Renewal.html

A number of recommendations in the Framework document are being progressed. For example, as part of the collaborative Town Centre Health Check Training Programme, managed by The Heritage Council, pilot TCHCs are underway in seven towns (Ballina, Cashel, Ennis, Dundalk, Monaghan, Naas, Tralee). To date Town Centre Health Check reports have been published for Tralee, and Ennis.