Chapter 4 – Town Centre First Approach

Open15 Oct, 2022, 8:00am - 28 Nov, 2022, 5:00pm

4.1 Introduction

The Limerick Development Plan acknowledges the challenges facing rural communities and the important role that towns and villages play as local drivers for their surrounding areas.  The most recent government policy publication, Town Centre First seeks to create vibrant communities in urban settlements, including villages, such as Caherconlish, to encourage families back into living in the heart of towns and villages. The policy outlines the need for towns and villages to be climate resilient, well-connected, accessible locations where digital technology is integrated into daily commercial and social life and where urban built heritage is sustainably managed and conserved.

Policy TCF P1: Town Centre First - It is policy of the Council to:

Support the implementation of the Town Centre First policy in Caherconlish in creating a vibrant and attractive village centre to live, work and visit, while also functioning as the service, social, cultural and recreational hub for the local community through the enhancement and development of the village’s rich architectural heritage and development of public realm.

Fig. 4.1 Residential Housing on High Street

4.2 Town Centre First and the ’10 Minute’ Town Concept

The Town Centre First policy is derived from the concept of developing a 10-minute city/town/village, whereby a sustainable compact settlement, such as Caherconlish, provides access for its residents to daily needs, within easy walking or cycling distance of their homes.   There is clear scope in Caherconlish to promote greater connections and linkages through appropriately designed infrastructure and through the design stage of any future development. Recent years have shown a shift in attitude towards a desire for proximity of local services and amenities. Creating enhanced walking and cycling facilities enables residents to shift to more sustainable transport modes and in doing so, reducing the carbon footprint of the settlement.

The decline of villages needs to be tackled by focusing on policies, such as the Town Centre First approach, which seeks to future proof our local towns/villages by creating attractive public realm, while also providing an environment where people want to live and can shop and meet their needs locally. 

Fig. 4.2 Residential Units on Main Street

The Draft Plan promotes the ‘Town Centre First’ approach with a focus on creating a thriving village centre with a strong service and social function.  Through the re-use of buildings, infill development, re-purposing of under-utilised lands within the village centre for mixed uses including residential, small local shops or creative workspaces, the Draft Plan seeks to consolidate the village rather than encourage sprawl.  In addition, the Draft Plan supports the investment in high quality pedestrian/cyclists friendly public realm, increased permeability and connectivity and attractive public spaces where people can gather socially to include maximising green spaces that facilitate local communities and economies.

Policy TCF P2: Place-making Strategic Policy - It is policy of the Council to:

Ensure that new development in the village centre and in particular the opportunity areas, comprises the highest of qualitative and design standards, complimenting the existing historical built fabric and national heritage, sustaining Caherconlish as a village in which to live, work, invest in and do business.

4.3 Town Centre Health Check

Vacancy in any urban centre impacts on the overall vitality and attractiveness of an area.  Residential vacancy is an issue or consideration in devising a new Local Area Plan and according to the 2016 Census, 9 dwellings or 1.7% of the housing stock were deemed ‘temporarily absent’ and 50 dwellings were deemed ‘other vacant dwelling’ accounting for 9.4% of the housing stock. Data gathered from Geo directory analysis for Q2 2022 identified residential vacancy in Caherconlish at 2.8% (3.5 units)

Limerick City and County Council carried out a Health Check of Caherconlish village in January 2022. In total 507 units were surveyed with 3.9% deemed vacant residential (19 units) and 30% vacant commercial units (9 units).  The breakdown of the units surveyed is outlined in the Health Check Map 4.1 further down the section.

There is some vacancy of properties visible throughout the village centre on High street, Barrack Street, and around the village square. Some of these units are highly visible due to their scale, having large street frontages, or their location within the village, in particular the square. Collectively and even individually, these vacant buildings contribute to the village’s neglected appearance.  The Council has a proactive regime in place, which aims to tackle the issues of dereliction and vacancy throughout Limerick. A dedicated team within the Council work on a continuous basis seeking to reduce vacancy and dereliction, through the various tools available, including compulsory purchase orders of vacant and underutilised properties. 

In order to realise the consolidation of Caherconlish, development will be encouraged to be delivered in a sustainable, sequential manner from the village core outwards, within the built up footprints of the village, while promoting the reuse and redevelopment of vacant and derelict sites and buildings. This Plan will provide support for continued diversification of services within the village core to sustain the residential population.  Opportunities for the reuse of these buildings will be supported in the Plan as well as the provision of new services within the village.  The Council will continue to monitor vacancy and work with the relevant stakeholders to address issues that exist and utilise the various tools available to implement urban regeneration.

 

Map 4.1 Caherconlish Health Check Map January 2022

4.4 Retail Strategy

The Retail Strategy for Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area and County Limerick designates Caherconlish as a Tier 4 – Large Village Level 1 Retail Centre.  The Retail Strategy refers to small towns, villages and local centres role as ‘fulfilling the everyday needs of the communities they serve’ and outlines how retail development should be targeted in the centres of small towns and villages complementing existing retail provision. The development of retail services in the smaller settlements will be focused on providing support services for their respective populations and rural hinterlands. 

There is a number of vacant commercial units in Caherconlish.  As previously outlined, retail vacancy, as accounted for through the Health Check Survey provided a breakdown of retail/commercial vacancy of 30% (9 total units).

The Council supports the ‘town centre approach’ when assessing planning applications in relation to retail development.  Development proposed on the ground floor in the village centre will be restricted to shopping and related services with active frontages to address the street.   Out-of-centre locations for retail business and services are generally not permitted in efforts to consolidate the existing retail centre and encourage vacant units use within centre. These retail developments should also be located in areas of high accessibility to the areas they serve.  The Draft LAP anticipates that additional retail development in Caherconlish will be achieved through the redevelopment of vacant commercial units in the first instance.

Policy TCF P3: Retail Strategic Policy - It is policy of the Council to:

To support the sustainable long-term retail growth of Caherconlish, in accordance with the Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 and the Retail Strategy for the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area and County Limerick.

Objective ED P4: Retail Development - It is the objective of the Council to:

Promote the vitality and viability of Caherconlish, as a retail service centre and to improve the quantity and quality of retail provision in the village by:

(a) Emphasising the village centre as the primary retail location;

(b) Encouraging the upgrading and expansion of existing retail units and the development of new units within the village centre;

(c) Ensure that proposals at ground floor level within the village centre are restricted to retail uses. Storage use will not be permitted as the primary use in this location;

(d) Encouraging the use of upper floors in retail premises for commercial or residential use;

(e) Enhancing the physical environment of the village centre, as a location for shopping and business through measures aimed at improving conditions for pedestrians;

(f) Encourage the retention of traditional shop fronts to enhance the streetscape.

Fig. 4.2 Image of Caherconlish Village Square

4.5 Opportunity Sites

The Council has identified 5 opportunity areas that have the potential to sustain community vitality, contribute to a positive public realm experience.  The Council seeks to capitalise on the existing assets of these area, be that natural biodiversity and amenity, location or the historic built heritage. 

Objective TCF O1: Opportunity Sites - It is an objective of the Council to:

  1. Encourage and support the appropriate and  sustainable  development  or  redevelopment where appropriate of lands identified as an opportunity site within the land use zoning map in line with the principles set out in Table 4.2.
  2. Ensure that new development in the village centre and in particular the opportunity areas comprises the highest of qualitative and design standards, complimenting the existing historical built fabric, or national heritage, sustaining Caherconlish as a village in which to live, work, invest in and do business.

Table 4.2 Caherconlish Opportunity Sites and Development Potential/Principles