View Of Day Place Looking Northwards Following Conservation Work

Historic Towns Initiative

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An initiative to promote heritage-led regeneration and to improve the quality of our historic towns and villages for residents and tourists.

An initiative to promote heritage-led regeneration and to improve the quality of our historic towns and villages for residents and tourists.

Introduction

Many of our city, town and village centres are historic places with their own distinct identities. Sustaining these is a complex process that in many cases involves the conservation and re-use of existing buildings, the care of public spaces and the provision of community facilities. The conservation and interpretation of this heritage makes our towns interesting, unique and attractive to residents and visitors.

In support of the Town Centre First: a policy approach for Irish towns (2022), the Historic Towns Initiative (HTI) is a joint undertaking by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Heritage Council which aims to promote the heritage-led regeneration of Ireland’s historic towns.

The government strategy Housing for All (2021) commits that ‘the [Historic Towns] initiative will be adjusted to encourage private owners and/or occupiers to bring vacant floor area in historic buildings back into use and projects that address dereliction and vacancy will be particularly focussed on, subject to going through the planning process as necessary.’

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 sets out a roadmap for Ireland’s transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich and climate neutral economy by no later than the end of the year 2050. This shift to a climate neutral future means that the conservation and repurposing of existing historic building stock has become increasingly more important. Existing buildings contain embodied energy which is lost if they are demolished; while the greenhouse-gas emissions involved in the demolition and replacement of a building have been calculated to take decades to recover.

The sustainable use of the historic buildings of our towns has added benefits in increasing the quality of life for all by offering reduced commuting as these buildings are generally closer to amenities and services. More directly the impacts of climate change on our built heritage are increasingly evident and should be taken into account in any proposals under the HTI. These impacts may be both immediate and cumulative – so that damage from catastrophic events such as floods and storms are likely to increase at the same time as the slow-onset of changes in deterioration processes. The built heritage is also vulnerable to maladaptation, that is, the inadvertent loss or damage to structures and sites during adaptation works. With increased weathering and severe climate events, the repair cycle on the built heritage of our towns is likely to become shorter. Increased maintenance and repair will be key to building resilience in our historic buildings and towns to enable them to withstand the effects of a changing environment.

The HTI has been in operation since 2018 and to date has supported heritage-led regeneration projects in thirty-two towns: Youghal, Bantry and Macroom, Co Cork; Kells, Navan and Duleek, Co Meath; Carrick on Suir, Nenagh and Tipperary town, Co Tipperary; Portlaoise, Co Laois; Kilmallock, Co Limerick; Ballina and Ballinrobe, Co Mayo; Roscommon town and Boyle, Co Roscommon; Kilrush, Co Clare; Callan, Co Kilkenny; Sligo town, Co Sligo; Letterkenny, Ramelton and Ballyshannon, Co Donegal; Clones and Monaghan town, Co Monaghan; Tramore, Co Waterford; Listowel, Tralee and Castleisland, Co Kerry; Enniscorthy and Wexford town, Co Wexford; Birr, Co Offaly; Naas, Co Kildare; Carlow town, Co Carlow.

View how funding through the HTI has benefited Cathedral Quarter, Letterkenny in the video below. 

The HTI pilot developed a framework approach to regenerating a town based on the principles of heritage-led regeneration. This framework and a review of the HTI pilot programme are available below under the heading resources.

The steps in the framework include an audit of the character and identity of the town, building up local support, identifying the challenges and opportunities, developing a vision for the future of the town supported by an action plan and carrying out those actions. The framework and review are a useful source of information for local authorities considering an application for funding under the HTI 2024.

The HTI relies on the strength of local communities and businesses to regenerate their historic town, supported by local and national government and other agencies committed to improving the quality of life for the town. 

2024 

Drawing on the experiences of the programme in 2018-23 this nationwide programme will continue in 2024 administered by the Heritage Council. The Historic Towns Initiative 2024 will award up to a total of €2 million competitively to several historic towns for heritage-led urban regeneration projects in 2024.

Read More about The Historic Towns Initiative for 2024.

Watch previous webinars on HTI on our youtube channel

Aim of the Historic Towns Initiative

The Historic Towns Initiative 2022 aims to provide support to historic towns engaged in a programme of heritage-led regeneration. In 2022 we are particularly interested in projects that address residential vacancy in town centres, that proposes the re-use of historic structures and that can act as a demonstrator for future projects. We are introducing two funding Streams for the HTI 2022.

Resources

Heritage Council publication Ballybrilliant: heritage-led regeneration in 5 Irish towns (2018)

Historic Towns Initiative Pilot Programme Review 2013-14

Historic Towns Initiative: Framework for the Pilot Phase in Listowel, Westport and Youghal 2013 – 2014

Information on case studies can be found in the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland publication Creating Vibrant Places: the RIAI town and village toolkit and in the publication Old House, New Home

Our urban centres contain a large amount of underused building stock. The sensitive reuse of such floor space at ground level and on upper floors should be encouraged. In relation to this, attention is drawn to the publication Bringing Back Homes: Manual for the reuse of existing buildings

Town Centre First: a policy approach for Irish towns (2022)

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