THE first tranche in what is hoped will be a new stream of funding for Newcastle West will be spent by the end of the year.
The €42,000 allocation under the Rural Economic Development Zone, or REDZ, Initiative will be boosted by an allocation of €14,000 from Limerick City and County Council funds, councillors for the Newcastle West Municipal District have been told.
And the money will be spent on enhancing what director of services Gordon Daly described as the Newcastle West conservation area. This takes in the Square and Maiden Street and the project will involve decluttering street signs and installing finger signs, repairing footpaths and restoring heritage style lamp posts as well as increasing soft landscaping and cleaning and painting the footbridge.
It was very important work which would link in with other work coming on stream later, Mr Daly stressed. “This is the first round of funding,” he said, emphasising that the designation under REDZ was important and should not be underestimated.
There are 17 unoccupied premises in Maiden Street and no lights on one side of the street, Cllr Jerome Scanlan pointed out. “We need to get ratepayers in there,” he said.
“The light programme is not included but it is the start of doing something in Maiden Street,” Mr Daly replied. He also outlined other schemes which he felt could be utilised or leveraged to achieve improvements in Newcastle West but also in Abbeyfeale and other smaller towns and villages in the district.
One of these is the Love Your Town initiative where a co-ordinated painting scheme for a street is agreed by the owners and up to 50% of the cost comes from the council.
“That scheme will work if it is done through Tidy Towns,” Mayor Liam Galvin said while Cllr Francis Foley said it was a great initiative. Cllr Seamus Browne pointed out that the new Leader programme would contain measures for town and village renewal. Mr Daly also argued that it was important to keep an eye on the Local Area Plans for Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale to make sure they are implemented. In particular, he stressed, they needed to monitor the areas of opportunity outlined in the plans.
However, Cllr Michael Collins argued against extending the Business and Retail Incentive Scheme to smaller towns and villages, saying that the scheme, which sets off fit-out costs against rates would be of absolutely no benefit to rate payers in small villages where the rates were low anyway. Meanwhile, Cllr Scanlan argued the council needed to “think outside the box” in relation to vacant business premises.
He believed that if a levy on vacant properties were imposed “after a certain period” the premises would very quickly be converted to residential use.
“We are going to have the plethora of small businesses that we had once.”
Cllr John Sheahan argued that the council should look at buying properties with some of the €32m loan that had been agreed by the full council for development purposes.