Reimagine Projects Around Ireland

Reimagine Projects Around Ireland

Pocket guide 8

Town Centre First in practice

National Town Centre First Office

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Town Centre First, a policy of the government of Ireland, aims to create town centres that function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live, work and visit, while also functioning as the service, social, cultural and recreational hub for the local community.

    Irish towns require a coordinated and comprehensive response in order to meet their current challenges and capitalise on the opportunities in their rich heritage and built environment. Town Centre First (TCF) facilitates that response for towns of all sizes across the country, enabling town centres to function as the sustainable and vibrant heart of the communities that they serve, in ways that are adaptable and appropriate to 21st century needs.

    The Reimagine Session “Town Centre First in practice” organised by the National Town Centre First Office with the Irish Architecture Foundation demonstrated both the National and local focus on revitalising Irish Towns. The Implementation of TCF is coordinated at a National level by the National Town Centre First Office. The role of the National Office is to liaise with stakeholders at both a Local Authority and National level to ensure that the relevant resources are available for Town Regeneration Officers (TROs) and Communities. 

    TROs are a key part of the process, driving the engagement with communities, gathering data, identifying projects and assembling TCF plans. The main priority of Town Centre First is that it is a community driven, plan-led approach. Diverse Town Teams representing a wide cross section of the community are the real owners of the TCF plan. Equipped with the relevant data and based upon their own knowledge of the Town, they are uniquely placed to guide the projects in a direction that will benefit all members of the community. 

    Town Centre First represents an opportunity to be Ireland’s first consistent approach to placemaking. The Methodology below sets out the components of a TCF plan.

    Local Delivery

    Town Centre First recognises that every town is unique. It lays the foundation for each town to develop, at a local level, their own plan-led path forward. This will be expressed through a tailored TCF Plan which is underpinned by a clear diagnosis of local strengths and challenges. This TCF Plan will be driven by the local community and businesses as part of a Town Team who will be supported by Town Regeneration Officers and technical expertise within each Local Authority.

    The TCF approach is centred on: 

    • Collaboration and communication – a collaborative process involving all relevant local stakeholders, represented by a collaborative Town Team, with good communication in respect of issues raised and the agreed direction.
    • Understanding the place – analysis and appraisal underpinned by a town audit/ data gathering -process.
    • Defining the place – shaping the plan around high-level objectives that are subsequently expressed through a series of actions.
    • Enabling the place – identifying a clear path to delivery of the Plan, cognisant that this will require actions of varying scale to be delivered by different partners.

    The Process


    A targeted investment programme supports towns in delivering the interventions identified in their bespoke Town Centre First Plans. Schemes include the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund; Rural Regeneration and Development Fund; Town & Village Renewal Scheme; Croí Cónaithe (Towns) Fund; and the European Regional Development (Thrive) Fund which will prioritise the delivery of Town Centre First. Other cross Government funding schemes also contribute to these projects and the National Office keeps a database of available schemes.

    • The National network of Town Regeneration Officers who bring a co-ordinated approach to delivery across the country and to act as a forum for sharing best practice and informing the ongoing roll-out of the policy.
    • Better data which enhances our understanding of Ireland’s towns and builds an evidence base for the ongoing evolution of the TCF policy alongside a scaled-up Town Audit Programme for towns which builds and expands on the success of the Heritage Council’s Collaborative Town Centre Health Check model.
    • Development of capacity building programmes for Town Teams to increase the skills and capabilities of Town Teams and enable them to deliver effectively.
    • The National Town Centre First Office which drives the implementation of Town Centre First actions and co-ordinates stakeholder engagement at a national level and across the Local Government Sector.
    • Cross-Government focus and alignment through a National Oversight and Advisory Group that monitors and guides the delivery of the policy.

    A National Framework

    We have a sense of pride in our towns and villages. Each town is unique, and they remain the lifeblood of local economies, supporting business and generating employment opportunities. Towns and villages provide important administrative, social, community and recreational functions. They support clusters of local services, have a significant share of homes and jobs, and act as transport hubs. With Town Centre First, Local Authorities through strong engagement with their communities can support tailored local development strategies for Ireland’s Towns.

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