Minister of State for Heritage launches Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) Reports
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD has launched two summary reports assessing the strengths and opportunities of Blarney and Tower, and Cloghroe’s historic town centres.
The Heritage Council, University College Cork’s Centre for Planning Education & Research, and Cork City Council along with local business and community groups in Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe participated in the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) Reports 2023.
The Heritage Council’s CTCHC assessment process measures citizens’ perceptions of historic towns’ commercial, heritage and cultural assets, as well as measuring public satisfaction with accessibility and cultural facilities. The reports draw on the survey results indicating participant perceptions of the overall health and performance of the historic towns, including the level of town centre activities, land/building use and vacancy levels, pedestrian footfall patterns and other key indicators.
It is intended that the two CTCHC reports will help to inform decisions for the future management and revitalisation of these historic towns and create a pathway to meeting targets set out in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2023, as well as commitments set out in 2nd National Implementation Plan (NIP) for UNSDGs 2022-2024.
A need for greater investment in Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe’s historic built environment emerged as a key area for local businesspeople and consumers, citing enhanced liveability and accessibility for walking and cycling, and further investment in cultural amenities and biodiversity as possible avenues for exploration.
The CTCHC reports also found that of the non-residential buildings in Blarney and Tower, there is a vacancy rate of approximately 9.5% and 7.7% respectively. Cloghroe has 0% non-residential vacancy. The Heritage Council’s CTCHC Programme advocates that a healthy ground floor commercial vacancy level in town and city centres should not exceed 11%.
A comprehensive list of key finds is available in the notes for editors below.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister Noonan said:
“These two CTCHC reports highlight the importance of recognising the potential of our historic town centres through sustainable regeneration, investment and engagement with the people who live and work there. I look forward to the continued regeneration of Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe and will work hard to ensure that we continue to deliver on our commitment to a ‘Town Centre First’ policy in the Programme for Government.”
Chairperson of the Heritage Council, Dr Martina Moloney added:
“The publication of the CTCHC reports could not be more welcome as Irish towns and cities recover from the impacts of the lockdowns and deal with the ongoing war in Ukraine. The pandemic forced people to think about their local areas in new ways and this report highlights the improvements that business owners and citizens’ living in towns across the country want to see; rethinking how we use our spaces sustainably, making historic cores more accessible and ensuring that those living in or close to city centres have as high a quality of life as possible.”
CEO of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan added:
“Supporting innovative approaches to teaching and learning is key to the Heritage Council’s work with academic partners and local authority colleagues. The completion of the CTCHC reports by UCC’s M.Plan students will equip the students with the practical skills and will support them in understanding the contemporary challenges faced by local authority policy makers. The process of completing this work will deepen students’ awareness of the complex issues facing our expanding urban centres and the need for holistic responses when considering solutions to addressing these challenges.”
Mayor of Cork City, Councillor Deirdre Forde said:
“These first-ever CTCHC reports for Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe provide extremely useful primary data that will enable Cork City Council, working in partnership with the Heritage Council, UCC, business and civic leaders and other vital organisations, to focus resources and supports as the new Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028 is implemented across the city’s administrative area. This is a challenging, yet exciting, time for historic towns and cities all over Ireland.”
Welcoming the report, President of University College Cork, Professor John O’Halloran said:
“The baseline CTCHC reports were a positive and constructive basis on which these historic towns can move forward and will be complementary to the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan currently being prepared for Cork City.
“This is a very useful and important baseline survey involving key strategic partners that provide us with a great framework for taking stock of Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe’s many assets and opportunities. We must be equipped with data-driven processes to build for the new Climate Change era. As a wider city region, like other second city regions in Europe, Cork is facing unchartered territory, yet has so much to offer, and this collaborative health check report will help us to enhance and maximise the quality of life and overall well-being of everyone in the historic towns within the city region.”
CTCHC Programme Founding Co-ordinator with the Heritage Council, Ali Harvey added:
“The CTCHC Reports for Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe clearly demonstrate the importance of having robust baseline and primary spatial data to inform communities and decision-making and investment proposals for the future planning of our historic town centres. This community-led approach to heritage and environmental management is hugely important as town and city centres throughout Ireland are facing a challenging time, as they recover from the Covid-19 lockdown and face into an uncertain future that requires them to meet strict climate change and EU Green Deal targets by 2030 and 2050. The collaborative effort of all the CTCHC partners has been rewarding and empowering, and all the partnerships created during the enjoyable project bode well for the future of these historic towns. The Heritage Council’s collaborative approach to strategic planning and sustainable development can help in the delivery of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (UNSDGs) and climate change targets in Ireland.”
The CTCHC survey work was carried out and the report prepared by Masters in planning and sustainable development students and their lecturer from University College Cork (UCC). Jeanette Fitzsimons said:
“The new partnerships that have been forged through this CTCHC data-creation process have been hugely rewarding, helping generate a collective place-making movement within all the partners, which is fundamental to empowering climate action by local communities. I believe that such partnerships can lead to true, long-lasting change for historic towns, which are linked to the UN SDGs. Establishing robust baseline information and data is important to historic towns in the Cork City area and it is essential that the Programme for Government invests in the recovery and renaissance of historic places in Ireland. This will support communities and young people in achieving a brighter and more sustainable future, particularly for UCC students. There are mutual benefits for all involved – the community and local Council gain the reports containing the data and opinions collected and the students develop their skills, which they are now applying in their careers as graduate planners in both the public and private sector in Ireland and abroad.”
Head of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences at UCC, Professor Chris Williams, said:
“I welcome the launch of the CTCHC reports today. During 2021/22, our Master’s in Planning and Sustainable Development students partnered with Cork City Council, the Heritage Council and the communities of Blarney and Tower & Cloghroe on these collaborative and worthwhile projects. Due to Covid-19 restrictions at the time, engagements with the communities facilitated by our students and consultations with the Heritage Council and Cork City Council were online. Fortunately, ground research such as land use surveys, pedestrian counts and design observations went ahead in person. It allowed our students to meet each other and work together on site after a year of online learning. The students developed important planning skills including data collection, teamwork, Place and form analysis, report writing and engagement while working on the CTCHC projects. The reports completed by Jeanette Fitzsimons, Lecturer, Centre for Planning Education & Research, UCC and the M.Plan students and graduates, with input from the CTCHC Project Team across Cork City Council and the Heritage Council, are a testament to the work of everyone involved. They will significantly benefit the people of Blarney, Tower & Cloghroe.”
Notes for editors
Please contact Pearse Ó Caoimh to arrange an interview.
T. 085 859 0378
Cork City Council’s Strategic and Economic Development Section applied to the Department of Rural and Community Development for a Town and Village Grant in 2019 to undertake a CTCHC for Tower and subsequently in 2020 for a CTCHC for Blarney, as part of Project Ireland 2040. These projects were implemented by the Operations Directorate of the local authority with responsibility for the newly expanded areas of Cork City.
Key findings for Blarney include:
- Blarney is a vibrant historic town and the local businesses viewed it as positive, friendly, welcoming and safe place;
- For the businesses, challenges they identified included parking and drift of traditional town centre land uses towards the edge of the town;
- The community who attended the virtual engagement event found Blarney to be a welcoming place with a strong sense of identity, rich heritage and they expressed strong civic pride in their historic town;
- Nature/biodiversity, tourism and the historic landscape were all seen as the most significant assets and there was a desire to increase the number of local day-trippers to Blarney; and
- Better footpaths and crossing points were suggested by the community, as were additional amenities for the locals.
Key findings for Tower & Cloghroe include:
- Tower & Cloghroe local businesses believe there are a lot of services in the area to serve the local community with the supermarket being the main attraction. They would like to see a more defined and consolidated town centre with more amenities for locals;
- There is a very good sense of safety and security in the area;
- The community believe that while the population of Tower & Cloghroe has grown significantly, the amenities for the locals has not been provided in line with population growth, especially amenities that are within a safe walking distance of the centre;
- The road through Tower is very busy, which impacts the town in terms of traffic and noise. Suggestions included to reduce speed limits or increase traffic calming measures within the core area;
- Strong desire to create an amenity area and walkway along the river and Muskerry Tramline; and
- Strong desire to promote the rich heritage and history of Tower & Cloghroe.