The Government is committed to providing supports that will assist the key stakeholders in towns and villages to make their centres vibrant and vital. My Department continues to offer a suite of measures to support businesses to grow and new business start-ups, primarily through our enterprise agencies and the Local Enterprise Offices.
As noted in the Framework for Town Centre Renewal, many Local Authorities offer grants to landlords and prospective new tenants to offset against commercial rates in order to incentivise occupancy and improve the retail mix, streetscape and general ambience. Local Authorities fall under the aegis of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
My Department does not have a “suite of measures or supports” to encourage existing businesses and new business start-ups to take up live occupancy of vacant commercial properties nor are there any plans to introduce such measures per se.
Under the auspices of the Retail Consultation Forum, which I chair, the ‘Framework for Town Centre Renewal’ was launched in April 2017. This Framework identifies the key attributes of a successful town centre and provides a blue print for action by key stakeholders to work collaboratively in addressing the challenges of creating vibrant and viable town centres through a three-stage process including: stakeholder engagement, carrying out a town centre ‘health check’, and preparing a Town Centre Plan. In relation to the challenge of high levels of town centre property vacancy, the Framework advocates a balanced approach that doesn’t undermine existing stakeholders.
Under the Action Plan for Jobs 2018, the Department of Rural and Community Development will continue to develop a range of programmes to support rural economic development, including the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. The Framework for Town Centre Renewal is a useful tool for towns and villages applying for funding under this scheme. Elsewhere, incentives to support urban regeneration are the responsibility of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.