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By City Regions Ireland, 22 April 2021
Five City Chambers of Commerce back call for Urban Future plan to assist with post-Covid-19 recovery
Thursday, 22nd April. In response to the ‘Our Rural Future’ plan, the Government’s blueprint for a post-Covid-19 recovery for rural Ireland, business voices in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford have come together to ask: “Where is the urban equivalent?”
In a letter to Government today, the CEOs of the Chambers of Commerce in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford under the umbrella of City Regions Ireland, have called on the Government to provide for balance in supports during the post-crisis recovery period.
City Regions Ireland said in the letter: ‘Ireland needs an ambitious strategy for its urban areas that addresses the converging challenges of digitalisation, remote working, and the rapid pace of change in retail. It will need a holistic action plan with measures to boost footfall and urban living, encourage the night-time economy, invest in active travel infrastructure and the public realm, and deliver the vision of the 15 Minute City. Businesses based in all our cities need to know how and in what way they will be supported during the upcoming recovery and transitionary phase so that they can successfully emerge from the current crisis and return to growth.’
It continued: ‘Supporting our cities and urban centres does not undermine the support of rural Ireland, but the two must be done in unison and balance if they are to return to economic growth in the long run. Failure to properly plan and support the recovery of our city and urban centres will have devastating impacts not just on our cities, but for the broader regions and rural areas that they support.’
Conor Healy, CEO, Cork Chamber, said: ‘It is essential that Government policy continues to build on the strength of Ireland 2040 and builds a cohesive and tactical suite of policy instruments and funds to ensure that city regions are positioned to thrive as we emerge from the pandemic. The current crisis is global and by making the right moves, we have every opportunity to distinguish our city regions over the coming months and years.’
Mary Rose Burke, CEO, Dublin Chamber, said: ‘Remote working is seen as the panacea for rural Ireland, and there are certainly opportunities there to be taken advantage of. However, from an employer perspective, the potential for full-time remote working will be limited. Instead, employers will offer greater flexibility with employees spending 60-80% of their time in the office. We are supporting our member companies as they go through this long-term transition. But that still leaves a city that will have potentially 40% fewer commuters in it each day. Does that mean 40% fewer coffee shops and restaurants? What impact does that have on retail in our city centre? And what does that mean for our urban town centres such as Rathmines, Phibsborough, Dún Laoghaire and Swords?’
Dee Ryan, CEO, Limerick Chamber, said: ‘COVID-19 has exacerbated existing challenges in our cities particularly with regards to commercial vacancies. A shortage of affordable quality residential accommodation continues to undermine efforts on the part of local authorities to attract people to live in city centres. If the Government is serious about its compact growth agenda and its commitment to promoting cities and key towns as drivers of Ireland’s future development then a clear blueprint for our urban areas, underpinned by the necessary funding, needs to be provided. In addition to incentivising new developments in our cities and towns, it is crucial that any urban plan considers how best to utilise our existing stock as this will undoubtedly support the Project Ireland goals of compact growth and sustainability, as well as the wider climate change agenda.’
Kenny Deery, CEO, Galway Chamber, said: ‘Our cities and urban centres are the economic drivers of our surrounding rural regions. While is it important that our rural areas will be receiving supports, it is vital that business in our urban areas are also supported by Government to ensure that they successfully emerge from the current crisis. Failure to do so will have long-standing impacts not just on our cities, but for the broader regions and rural areas that they support. We already see evidence of decline in our towns and cities - now more than ever, they need support.’
Gerald Hurley, CEO, Waterford Chamber, said: ‘Waterford has ambitious plans to become a micro-city of international standing and to do so, a clear and ambitious urban area strategy is critical. The unprecedented challenges our cities have faced as a result of the pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on local economies and our core business community must be supported into the future. Digitalisation and remote working will result in reduced footfall in our city centres, which will have a knock-on effect on retail. These are just some of the issues we need to be cognisant of as we strive to realise the ambitions outlined in Project Ireland 2040. To ensure the sustainability and growth of our urban centres, we need to address these concerns from the outset and create a robust strategy that allows for the future development of our cities.’
Note to Editor:
City Regions Ireland
City Regions Ireland brings together the Chambers of Commerce of Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford in one voice to further the urban agenda.
The Chamber of Commerce of the 5 cities, identified by the National Planning Framework, Ireland 2040, work together to tackle common issues and opportunities in our urban regions, particularly focusing on the areas of infrastructure, housing, and planning to inform policy making and maximise sustainable growth.
City Regions Ireland is made up of Cork Chamber, Dublin Chamber, Galway Chamber, Limerick Chamber and Waterford Chamber.