Irish North-West regeneration projects win government funding

DUBLIN, Ireland – The Irish government is to allocate €61.4 million in funding for three regeneration projects in the North-West investment region.

The projects are being funded under ‘Call 2’ of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF). The URDF part-funds projects aimed at enhancing urban areas to make them more attractive places in which to live, work, visit and invest.

The projects for which URDF support have been approved are:

  • Letterkenny 2040 Phase 1 (Donegal County Council) €13.60 million
  • City Campus – Sligo’s Cultural and Learning Hub (Sligo County Council) €28.68 million
  • Implementation of Sligo Public Realm (Sligo County Council) €19.16 million

The department says it will now contact the local authorities on the next steps regarding funding. The projects announced on Friday will augment the existing pipeline of 87 URDF-supported projects across the country for which just under €300 million has already been allocated. With Friday’s allocation, the total approved URDF funding for this investment region to date has risen to €72.82 million. Details of the remaining provisional funding allocations for ‘Call 2’ URDF projects in other Project Ireland 2040 investment regions, not already announced, will be announced next week.

“This funding will support projects in Donegal and Sligo that will enhance quality of life for many people. The projects are all about making these areas more attractive places in which to live, work, visit and invest,” Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien said Friday.

“These projects can help to revitalise Letterkenny and Sligo Town. Letterkenny will see new spaces created for a range of uses, including an enterprise space at the historic courthouse. The new spaces to be created for cycling and pedestrians support the government’s aims of more sustainable transport and low-carbon living in our cities and towns. Sligo’s public realm project will not only enhance the quality of life for people who live, work and visit the town but should help attract investment in developing existing brownfield sites. The project for Sligo’s cultural and learning hub is an example of the URDF funding a project that will develop under-utilised land to bring opportunity and new vibrancy to a place.”

“Compact growth was the focus of this round of URDF funding. The projects the ggovernment is funding are geared towards sustainable growth of our urban settlements, supported by jobs, houses, services and amenities, as envisaged by the National Planning Framework. As well as compact growth, the fund supports our other national planning aims. In that sense, the URDF is a unique approach to Government funding. Whilst many government-funded programmes are for specific types of projects, the URDF funds a diverse set of integrated projects with integrated aims. I look forward to working with Donegal and Sligo County Councils to progress these important projects,,” O’Brien said.

The projects, according to the department, were chosen after a rigorous assessment process, overseen by a project advisory board consisting of government departments, State agencies, and national and international experts in areas such as building, architecture, and planning. In total, the department says it received 76 project proposals. Each local authority submitted at least one application.

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Following are the details of the successful projects:

Donegal County Council project

Letterkenny 2040 Phase 1 project – €13.60 million

‘Letterkenny 2040 Phase1’ is a transformative urban regeneration project with a series of inter-related regeneration measures in Letterkenny Town Centre. It is a strategic step in Letterkenny’s longer-term regeneration goal to transform the core of the regional cross-border centre as a ‘Place for People and Public Life.’ It builds on the ‘Call 1’ funded project, which involved a Masterplan and site assembly works.

This project consists of five inter-related elements:

  • The Cathedral Quarter: these works involve site assembly, design and capital works, including a ‘Creative Design Hub’ together with green urban parkland
  • Renewal at Lower Main Street: site assembly to enable future integrated renewal of Main Street
  • Revival of the Courthouse: new enterprise space blended with a tourist attraction in the revived historic Courthouse
  • Regional Transport Hub: site assembly to enable future development of a regional transport hub
  • Letterkenny Green Connect: site assembly to enable cycling and pedestrian space

Sligo County Council projects

City Campus – Sligo’s Cultural and Learning Hub – €28.68 million

The vision for this area is for it to become a new cultural centre of Sligo Town. This is to happen through the strategic transformation, regeneration, and redevelopment of an under-utilised and semi-derelict block of land in the town’s centre. The project will be an exemplar flagship project for the region that will embrace SMART Cities’ technologies and innovative practices. It will also use environmentally sustainable construction practices and materials during all phases of its development, thus assisting with the transition to a low-carbon resilient society.

This project involves the following elements:

  • site assembly in key locations
  • master planning for the ‘City Campus Project’
  • new mixed-use buildings to include a new county library, IT Sligo academic library, offices and enhanced public realm
  • development of a new county museum through conservation, refurbishment, and extension of the existing library building

Implementation of Sligo’s Public Realm – €19.16 million

This a strategic, transformative project designed to regenerate and rejuvenate the town and promote its sustainable and compact growth. It is an ambitious and transformative plan that will greatly increase pedestrian mobility, enhance the sense of place and create a more liveable town centre, with the potential to attract further investment towards the development of several brownfield sites.

This project consists of complementary sub-projects that are follow-on capital works from the master planning and design stage works of the ‘Call 1’ project:

  • Sligo Town Public Realm: enhancement works
  • Market Cross: the creation of an attractive usable public open space in the heart of the town
  • Centre Block enabling measures: the finalisation of the Centre Block Master Plan and site assembly works to facilitate the inclusion of a cultural flagship project in this new quarter of the town
  • Quay Street Car Park: the redevelopment of car park into a new public space
  • Markievicz Bridge: the construction of a footbridge to aid pedestrian circulation around the town
  • Old Market Street/Teeling Street junction – enhancement of this junction to create a gateway entrance to the town centre from the south east
  • Implementation of a ‘Wayfinding and Interpretation Strategy for Sligo’: the aim is to enhance the visitor experience and improve wayfinding around Sligo Town Centre. Implementation will address both interpretations as well as orientation.

Analysis of the North-West region’s needs

The North-West is spatially unique within the island of Ireland due to its extensive coastline and its proximity to Northern Ireland. Historically, the North-Western part of the island has demonstrated significant resilience in competing for investment. Enhancing the urban structure of this region is key to sustaining and supporting its continued development, particularly with respect to North-South co-operation, exemplified by the North-West Growth Partnership.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

The URDF is one of four funds established under the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027. It has an allocation of €2 billion to 2027. Its aim is to support more compact and sustainable development in Ireland’s five cities and other large urban areas. Funding is aimed at projects that support the NDP objectives and the NPF’s ten ‘national strategic outcomes’, which include compact growth; enhanced regional accessibility; and sustainable mobility. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is responsible for administering the URDF.

The five chosen projects are consistent with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.

– Through the URDF, successful applicants receive targeted, integrated funding for innovative solutions to issues that have hindered urban regeneration and rejuvenation. The fund part-funds projects that will deliver a greater proportion of residential and mixed-use development within the existing built-up footprints of cities and large towns.

– The URDF’s significant capital investment acts as a catalyst for wider regeneration, development and growth. The IDA has already acknowledged the URDF’s important role in creating a sense of place, something considered essential for increasing Ireland’s attractiveness to foreign investment and strengthening opportunities for indigenous enterprise.

– URDF ‘Call 1’ funding: The URDF is already providing assistance for major regeneration projects in Ireland’s larger urban areas. Under ‘Call 1’ of the URDF, 87 projects are being funded. Details were announced in November 2018. These projects are spread across the regions and span a number of the NPF’s objectives. The total provisional allocations to date in respect of these 87 projects is just under €300m.

– URDF ‘Call 2’ funding: a second call for funding proposals was announced in January 2020. It focused on (1) integrated urban developments (2) strategic development areas combining a number of elements and (3) schemes that support wider climate action objectives and quality of life factors within cities and towns. Projects aim to deliver compact growth whilst ensuring more of our urban areas become attractive and vibrant places in which to live, work, visit and invest.