Urban Regeneration funding opens opportunity to create quality urban places

Urban Regeneration funding opens opportunity to create quality urban places

Thoughtful planning and partnership key to unlocking value of Fund

“The investment now available offers a very significant opportunity for well thought out urban regeneration plans to deliver ‘quality of place’” according to Dr. Conor Norton, Vice President of the Irish Planning Institute and Head of the School of Transport, Engineering, Environment and Planning at DIT.

Dr. Norton was speaking today (Monday 9 July, 2018) at an Information Seminar attended by local and regional authorities in Portlaoise to explore the potential of the recently announced €2bn Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) established by Government under the National Development Plan (2018 – 2027). The seminar was opened and introduced by Mr. Eoghan Murphy T.D. Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

The Irish Planning Institute has warmly welcomed the commitment to regeneration and urban redevelopment in the National Development Plan. The URDF is intended to drive regeneration in cities and large towns specifically. Dr. Norton noted that the commitment to redevelop ‘brownfield’ land is “a positive way to both bring life back into urban areas and do so in an efficient and sustainable way that supports both communities and the wider economy”

Dr. Norton told the seminar that “quality of place” has to be a key driver for urban regeneration. “Quality places attract people and with them services and investment. Quality places in an urban setting have a strong character and sense of place, a rich diversity of functions and activities, a highly adaptable urban structure, a well connected network of streets and open spaces, priority for movement of people on foot and by public transport and coherent attractive streetscapes”.

He went on to note that there are three key features that enable the opportunity to develop such quality places.

  • Regeneration is area based and must be plan led. There is a need for thoughtful planning that is based on a deep understanding of an area, its fabric, how the community interacts and how the local economy works
  • Partnership is essential. It is only possible to develop on a sustainable basis when the vision for doing so is shared by all of the stakeholders to an area; public and private, commercial, community and civic.
  • Investment and funding are required to kickstart a process that unlocks unused and vacant sites and that connects spaces that can work together to provide new opportunities.

In acknowledging the importance of the URDF in providing that essential funding component, Dr. Norton highlighted a number of existing initiatives that provide points of reference. He cited examples in Monaghan, Kilkenny, Tralee, Dublin Docklands and the Ballymun regeneration project in Ireland as existing examples and noted innovative planning proposals in the UK and in Scandinavia that could challenge and inform thinking.

“The URDF places urban regeneration at the centre of the debate about our towns and cities and it will bring local communities and businesses into contact with the urban regeneration process. In terms of its operation, there is a potential role for the Regional Assemblies in managing the fund to secure coordinated approaches”

Dr. Norton warned however that the URDF (and the NPF and NDP) must be robust to political change. “It is not a panacea for urban problems. These will take many years to resolve, and will require major additional and sustained investment along with a supportive policy and regulatory environment around urban regeneration.