The Minister for Rural and Community Affairs, Michael Ring, intends to set up a pilot scheme to upgrade and refurbish derelict properties in towns and villages around the country.
Minister Ring outlined his proposal while in West Cork, where he visited a number of projects that have received funding from his department.
He said he was speaking with other government departments and local authorities, regarding possible options, and indicated that the rates base could also be considered as part of a plan to regenerate towns and villages and maintain local retail outlets faced by competition from online stores.
“The big challenge, for us, is particularly in relation to the derelict properties that we have in every town and village in this country,” Minister Ring said.
“I am looking at a pilot scheme, now, to see what can I do to regenerate some of these towns.
“I am going to try and get a pilot scheme up and running, but what I want to see happening with it is not just a grant there and a grant here, what I want to see is what can we do to regenerate them.
"I am talking to [the Department of] Housing, I am talking to [the Department of the] Environment, I am talking to the local authorities, and I hope to try and put something together next year.
“It’s not simple and I’d like to be able to say it was easy. I would like do something that might work. If I could get a pilot scheme up and running, then we can run that out. We are looking at everything.
"That’s what I’m doing. I’m talking to finance, to all the ministers. I’m looking at everything. What I’m allowed to do, at government level, is another decision, but, at the end of the day, what I want to do is get a pilot scheme.”
Minister Ring was speaking in the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, which has received €150,000 from the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, but which previously received no state support.
It is at 90% occupancy, made up of online start-ups, remote workers, hot-desk workers, and others linked to a Dublin headquartered e-commerce company.
“What I want to see is what happened here,” he said, referring to digital hubs as “the way forward”. However, he also said street-level business also needed to be protected.
“The biggest challenge, facing all the high streets and every shop in this country, is online business and that is the biggest difficulty,” he said, referring also to multinational businesses building on the edge of towns — something he said his own town of Westport did not allow to happen.
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