FIRST STEPS IN REACTIVATING CORK’S COUNTY TOWNS
All 23 Town Teams established under Cork County Council’s “Project ACT” have now met to discuss ways to support businesses and communities affected by COVID-19.
Each Town Team consists of local elected representatives, business people, community leaders, tidy towns, traders, members of An Garda Siochana and representatives of the Cork County Older Person’s Council amongst others. The Kinsale Town Team comprises of Cllr Marie O'Sullivan who is joined by local business people, Brenday Jolly of Daisychain, Teddy Dyer of Footloose Kinsale, and Ciarán Fitzgerald of the Blue Haven Collection and Kinsale Chamber of Tourism and Business.
The opening meetings were well attended with participants keen to emphasise the importance and value of town stakeholders working together in a coordinated and collaborative community led approach.
Each Town Team meeting identified and considered the key challenges facing their local town. It was recognised that significant challenges lie ahead in terms of restarting the economies of local towns while at the same time adapting to the new way of life necessitated by social distancing.
There was a broad welcome for the Project ACT initiative launched by Cork County Council. The retail core of county towns will experience visible improvements to their presentation, ranging from power cleaning of the public realm to temporary widening of footpaths to facilitate social distancing. This will help to rebuild confidence in county towns from a business and consumer perspective.
The Town Team meetings also considered local matters such as the temporary redistribution of road space amongst motorists and pedestrians, usage of outdoor space, the need for temporary pedestrianisation measures, street furniture, repainting of pedestrian crossings, parking management and provision.
There was a considerable focus on supports to business also, with representatives from the Councils Local Enterprise Office and Tourism Office in attendance to provide advice and support. Information was also shared regarding the Councils Restart Grant which is targeted at small businesses and is currently open for applications.
Promotion of county towns was also raised as a priority issue, as well as the need to make advance preparations for local festivals and events and how these might be managed in the context of the current restrictions.
Speaking of the success of the initial engagement phase of Project ACT, Mayor of the County of Cork, Councillor Ian Doyle commented “There is a long road ahead, and it won’t be easy, but the key is a coordinated and collaborative approach in mapping the initial steps required to strengthen our towns. Our strength is in our communities as has been demonstrated time and again by the extraordinary local response to this crisis. As restrictions are eased, I am asking everyone to support their local businesses, continue to shop local and take another look at the amenities and facilities on your doorstep.”
Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey, says, “The feedback from each of the Town Teams has been that there is a huge desire to restart commercial activity in our county towns as we move through the government roadmap to reopening. We have established the Town Teams to identify local priorities in each of our 23 county towns, to allow us to quickly introduce measures that can give consumers reassurance that our county towns are safe and open for business. Cork County Council will do all within its power to stimulate and encourage economic activity in each of these locations, so that we can all look to a brighter future post COVID-19.”
In most cases, the Town Teams have agreed to reconvene this week or next, with the initial priority focused on business representatives and town traders providing input on local priorities.