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03 Jul 2022

BIG READ: Tipperary Town's 'overwhelming need is being ignored'

Council decide to fund two projects after huge backlash in Tipperary Town

Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

Tipperary Town dereliction collage showing many of the vacant and derelict buildings in the town

An overwhelming socio- economic “need” in Tipperary Town was ignored by the Rural Regeneration Fund according to a statement issued by Tipperary Town’s Cllr Annemarie Ryan and Founding Co-ordinator of the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) Programme, Alison Harvey.

They point to important survey data confirming that the town’s commercial/retail vacancy rate is the highest in the CTCHC Programme as being the basis for their statement.

According to Alison Harvey, the target (ground floor) commercial/ retail vacancy rate abroad is 5% (pre-Covid).

“The level of vacancy revealed in Tipperary at 28.2% commercial/retail vacancy rate is completely unheard of in a European context. (Denmark is at 5% and the Netherlands is at 6.8%). Something must be done urgently to enable the reuse of these vacant buildings and sites. We urgently need a national enabling policy to address the ongoing conservation deficit in our historic town centres,” said Ms Harvey.

The survey shows that within the town centre there are 73 empty commercial buildings and 12 empty residential buildings, giving a total of 85 empty buildings in the town centre.

The important survey data confirmed that Tipperary Town’s commercial/retail vacancy rate is the highest in the CTCHC Programme, in comparison to Ballina’s 19% retail vacancy rate (2019) and Sligo’s 18.4% retail vacancy rate (2020).

The CTCHC Programme currently has 15 towns enrolled in the programme with an additional 45 towns on a waiting list wanting to join. Their involvement very much depends on much-needed investment required under a commitment in the Programme for Government.

Cllr Ryan says that alarm bells in Ireland’s systems should go off at 11% but have failed to do so across many towns.

“Tipperary Town is one of these towns in urgent need of targeted interventions that address systemic long term vacancy and dereliction within historic town centres,” added the Tipp Town councillor.
The statement by Ms Harvey and Cllr Ryan says that this has raised the serious question of whether RRDF and URDF (Funding Programmes) consider deprivation indices when deciding on funding allocations.

“Both Scotland and Northern Ireland use TSN (Targeting Social Need) when deciding the distribution and allocation of regeneration and heritage funding. Does Ireland apply such robust needs-based criteria when assessing regeneration funding?

“Last summer, Tipperary Town Task Force submitted plans under the RRDF to regenerate a large derelict heritage building in the town centre. The proposal is to provide a community and education training centre to combat early school leavers and to address intergenerational poverty and low educational attainment.

“Nearly one in five people in Tipperary Town have no formal education or a primary education (19%) and Third Level education is low (12.4%) compared to county and state figures, 21% and 28% respectively. This is at a time when a major new international study by the OECD reveals that young people in Ireland are the most educated in Europe.

“Despite evidence of this overwhelming socio- economic need coupled with unheard of vacancy rates, RRDF funding announced earlier this month showed that Tipperary Town’s bid was unsuccessful.

“A further analysis of the RRDF funding allocation shows that 84% of the fund went to constituencies with either a minister, a junior minister or multiple Government TDs. Tipperary Town has no elected TD, minster, and/or junior minister and therefore no funding,” concludes the statement.

INTERVENTION

Significant disappointment was expressed by all project partners, and the people of the town, at the recent announcement that Tipperary Town did not succeed in receiving RRDF funding for the three projects presented under the 2021 Category 2 call. However the disappointment has been offset with the news that Tipperary County Council is to provide funding to enable two of the projects to proceed through to the design stage.

“In order to maintain the very good progress made by the Task Force, and to keep up the positive momentum achieved to date, the council can confirm that funding will be provided for the two projects in the town i.e., the Youth and Further Education and Training Centre at Dan Breen House and the Renovation of the Canon Hayes Recreation Centre, in order to progress these to detailed design, planning, and costing phases before going forward for capital funding under the relevant capital funding programmes,” said Pat Slattery, Director of Services, Tipperary County Council.

Cllr Mary Hanna Hourigan, Cathaoirleach of Tipperary/Cahir/Cashel Municipal District said: “Progressing these projects, through the provision of council funding and resources, is a tremendous showing of commitment and support by Tipperary County Council for the work of the Task Force and the overall efforts to revitalise Tipperary Town.”

She added that it was important that the council and the Task Force would continue to work with Horse Racing Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Limerick Junction Racecourse to seek alternative sources of funding for the equine project at Tipperary Racecourse, and to support the HRI plans for the all-weather racing track.

The news has also been welcomed by Michael Begley, Manager of the Tipp Town Revitalisation Project.

“We are delighted with this news and wish to extend our gratitude to Tipperary County Council for this tremendous show of support in the work of Tipperary Town Revitalisation Task Force.

"The developments at Dan Breen House and Canon Hayes Recreation Centre represent two high priorities under the Task force Strategy and Action Plan, with the need for enhanced further education and training services and recreational infrastructure having come across strongly in our extensive community consultations.”

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