‘Future of Kilkenny city-centre must be decided by the people’ – Cllr Noonan
THE people of Kilkenny must be given a much greater say in the future direction of our historic city-centre, a leading councillor has said.
Kilkenny councillor and Green Party spokesperson on local government, Cllr Malcolm Noonan, also said the local council should look to the example of a Scottish town to “protect and enhance” the vibrancy of the city-centre.
‘Town Centre First’ is a National Scottish Government policy that addresses areas such as proactive planning, infrastructure, development and place, digital city, business rates relief, governance and community engagement.
Cllr Noonan, who is also the Green Party spokesperson for local government, said the Scottish policy offers a suite of measures that could strengthen the hand of local communities to take control over the future direction of their town centres.
Cllr Noonan told KilkennyNow.ie: “I think that adopting the ‘Town Centre First Principle’ points policymakers both local and national in the right direction towards a comprehensive and whole system approach to the myriad of challenges faced by our urban centres.
“‘Having held a number of public participation events on the theme of the future of our towns, I am convinced that there is an energy among the wider community to engage with the local authority and business community to do something radical and innovative in Kilkenny’.
Cllr Noonan said thorny issues such as the pedestrianisation of the town centre, putting significant political energy into the completion of the ring road, developing exemplar town centre living projects and prioritising cycling and walking all need to be considered.
He added: “I also believe that the brewery masterplan needs to be revised completely; its not fit for purpose and we; the people of Kilkenny need to take back control over its future development. The town centre first policy is based on a collaborative approach to urban planning and would act as a failsafe against the loss of such an important public asset and ensure that the views of those who take part in a planning process are reflected in the final outputs.”
Cllr Noonan said he would like to see other innovative elements of the Town Centre First initiative to be considered for Kilkenny, including variable rates for start ups and local enterprises, a business rates incentivisation scheme, a Town Centre Investment Zone and an architect led pilot schemes for urban regeneration.
“While we have tried some elements of these in the past; this is the first and in my view most comprehensive approach to consolidating the vibrant future for town centres; led from Government through a coordinated and not piecemeal approach and through a more rigorous, collaborative and community led approach at local level,” said Cllr Noonan (pictured below).
The Green Party politician said that while Kilkenny is still performing better than many regional towns, there is a worrying trend of shop closures, a significant deterioration in the built fabric and risk to many heritage assets in the City.
He added: “I want our Civic Trust to be centrally involved in the conversation and in supporting our town centre. This is what it did well in the past. Equally we are fortunate to have the National headquarters of the Heritage Council here and they have pioneered much of the policy reflected in the Scottish Government approach. We should be making the best of their presence here.
“Far too much of our focus in placemaking in our city centre in recent years has been directed at tourism but I believe that if a city works for the people who live in it and is a fun place to spend time in, then it is right for visitors too. We have an opportunity now through our next development plan to reflect a wider ambition, to be courageous and to support a vibrant, climate proofed, healthy, economically viable town centre with many more families choosing to live in the heart of our city. Town Centre First policy is a way forward towards achieving this.”