Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has outlined how her Department is working to support town and city centres in their recovery.
As we move from the emergency response stage into the recovery stage, restrictions are being lifted gradually, enabling some businesses to commence trading, albeit at a reduced level in many cases. The Minister has written to councils with an update on work ongoing in the Department for Communities to support towns and cities in this recovery.
Measures being explored include:-
– Consideration of how programmes such as the Department’s Revitalisation scheme can be targeted in a way that supports town and city centres as they recover from the impact of Covid-19;
– Offering the use of Departmental owned assets and public spaces where this will be helpful to businesses; and
– Making better use of existing Pavement Café legislation.
Minister Hargey said: “We are by no means through the Covid-19 crisis and we have to be careful how we proceed. Progress can only be made at the appropriate time and when it is safe to do so but as the restrictions begin to be lifted, it is important that our towns and city centres are geared up to support citizens and businesses.
“I have written to all Council Chief Executives to outline my intention to develop a Capital Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Scheme to fund works that will aid in the recovery of towns and cities. This could include equipment to control queueing, shop frontage amendments and small capital works including public realm. My Department is engaging with councils to shape the scheme to maximise the effectiveness of support. More details on this will be provided in due course.
“My Department owns a number of sites within town and city centres which have been acquired for regeneration purposes. It also owns a number of civic and public spaces in city and town centres. I will make these available, where this is helpful, to support safe queuing, social distancing or spill out space for cafes, bars and restaurants for example. I have encouraged councils to work with my Department to explore how we can help in this regard.
“I have also encouraged councils to make more use of the existing Pavement Café legislation and assured them that I am committed to working with relevant stakeholders to resolve any issues that still remain around the implementation of licences in terms of planning and guidance.”
The Minister continued: “As Minister for Communities, I am committed to the shared goal of supporting our towns and city centres as they recover from these unprecedented challenges.”