A key objective of the Heritage Council’s Strategic Plan 2012-16 is to “invest in a new Historic Towns and Villages initiative in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland, thereby maintaining heritage integrity and improving the quality of our historic towns and villages for residents and tourists." In 2012-13 the Heritage Council, the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht (DAHG) and Fáilte Ireland, developed a pilot initiative to make progress in this area.
Aims and Objectives
Ireland has a rich legacy of historic towns and villages ranging from medieval towns, estate villages, canal and port towns to centres of administration. The historic character of these towns can be seen as a valuable asset, providing the potential for them to become vibrant, multi-functional places to live, work and visit. We need to protect the heritage of these towns in order to safeguard their distinctive character.
This pilot scheme involved the three historic towns of Westport in Co. Mayo, Listowel in Co. Kerry and Youghal in Co. Cork. In this scheme, the Heritage Council and its partners sought to combine the conservation and protection of the built and natural heritage of the participating towns through effective urban renewal while maximising the economic value of tourism in the towns.
A number of important achievements were put in place as part of the initiative:
- A guidance document on drafting a HTI Plan for member towns was developed;
- Local meetings took place in each of the towns where further contacts were made between national and local government, local development bodies and the wider community, including business interests;
- Grant aid for a range of heritage-related projects was provided to the three pilot towns to implement a range of capital and current programmes (e.g. façade painting, conservation works, sash window repair etc.);
- A series of attitudinal surveys was commissioned by Fáilte Ireland as an integral element of the HTI in each of the three towns. These surveys provided impartial feedback from residents, visitors and members of the business community;
- Arising from the pilot initiative, a Heritage-Led Regeneration Plan was completed for Listowel.
Following the completion of the pilot phase, proposals were made to government to expand the Historic Towns Initiative through the creation of a Rural Towns and Village Network. One of the ways this was to be accomplished was by transforming the Irish Walled Towns Network into a wider network of historic towns.
Details on this scheme are available in the Heritage Council’s policy documents - 'Policy Proposals for Ireland’s Towns' (2015) and ‘Proposal for Regenerating Ireland’s Historic Towns and Villages' (2015).