Stakeholder Engagement is an important element in the overall process of producing the Strategy. This approach provides a basis for a well‐informed Final Strategy which contains examples of collaboration with the public. It is vital to identify and gather the opinions of stakeholders who live and work in the area as local knowledge is invaluable to the depth of detail included in the Strategy.
What we heard
The approach to stakeholder engagement taken as part of this Strategy was based on the key consultation principles outlined in the Carlow Public Participation Network’s Community Consultation Toolkit.
As part of the plan making process the project team convened a number of Public Consultation Workshops attended by the public, advisory agencies, Carlow County Council and Elected Members, Carlow Town Forum, young peoples representative’s, businesses and key community stakeholders.
In order to provide a focus for consultation, a number of key areas relevant to Carlow Town were identified as follows:
- Economic Development
- Perceptions of the Town
- Urban Design/Heritage
These headings assisted in gaining an understanding of how people currently use Carlow Town, gave an insight into people’s experience of the Town and provided a focus for how the Town may be improved into the future.
Carlow County Council have established in-house structures to ensure that the engagement in the development of Carlow Town is co-ordinated from vision to delivery. This structure allows for the collaboration of ideas and insurance that the Carlow Town Masterplan is designed using a whole of organisation approach. A strategic team is chaired by the Chief Executive with all members of the Management Team with the project development team. The project development team is co-ordinated by the Director of Services for Economic Development, Planning & Corporate and has the Senior Planner, Senior Engineer, Head of Enterprise and the Town Centre Co-ordinator. Consultation is conducted internally with all Departments in respect of the Masterplan Process.
Carlow Municipal District
Carlow Municipal District was established under the Local Government Act and is central to the future development of Carlow Town. In particular, they have a key role in relation to economic and community development and associated projects and initiatives. In addition, the members contribute significantly to inter alia transport, amenity and public realm projects with their inputs important to ensure deliverability, realise the needs of the local community and enhance the Town Centre.
Carlow Town Development Forum
The Carlow Town Development Forum was established to oversee and direct the implementation of a Town Centre Action Plan. This plan sets out a strategy that when implemented will positively impact the growth and prosperity of the Town Centre through increased visitation, business, revenues and jobs. The Vision of the Carlow Town Development Forum is to improve the prosperity of the Town Centre and enhance the well-being of the community, creating a viable and sustainable Town Centre economy. The Forum will help revitalise the Town Centre by supporting the development of a broad mix of retail, community and leisure uses that create a distinct Town Centre, appealing to residents and visitors alike.
The Carlow Town Development Forum provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to work collaboratively towards a shared vision that will enhance the quality of the town environment and strengthen the Town Centre. The Forum aims to provide a healthier and more pleasant environment for all people who live in, work in, and visit Carlow Town. Emphasis is placed on improving the economic, social, environmental, and community aspects of Carlow Town and enhancing the living, working and recreational environments of the Town.
Public Consultation 1
- The first Public Consultation Workshop took place at the Seven Oaks Hotel in Carlow Town on 25th July 2019 where the project was introduced to members of the public by Carlow County Council and the Consultant Team.
- An interactive roundtable session followed whereby participants were encouraged to relay their views and opinions on particular areas of the physical and social environment of Carlow Town.
- Core subject areas were identified to focus discussions, considering not only the challenges facing the Town, but also its assets in terms of what makes it an attractive and unique place.
- A wide range of responses were vocalised by participants and gathered on foot of this forum.
- This was a vital element in the engagement process which fed into the initial information gathering stage of the project. It identified the core issues facing Carlow Town according to those that live there and presented ideas for growth and expansion of the Town.
- An online survey was made available on the Carlow County Council website to members of the public. The survey took the same format as the public consultation workshop.
- The provision of the survey facilitated the submitting of views, opinions and ideas and helped capture input from those who were unable to attend the public information session. 2019 August
- The survey proved to be a very effective engagement tool with a total of 122 replies received during the two week window. This demonstrated the strong commitment of the community to their Town and their interest in its future development. 2019 November Engagement with Carlow Town Development Forum
- A Youth Workshop was held on 15th October in the Seven Oaks Hotel as part of the consultative process. The purpose of which was to gain an understanding of the key issues that affect the lives of young people living in Carlow Town.
- Approximately 60 students from St. Leo’s College Secondary School in the Town were in attendance at the Workshop. Following an introductory presentation, a group discussions on the key questions regarding the function of the Town, including “Where is the Town Centre?” was held.
- This Workshop provided valuable information with regard to how young people experience Carlow Town and how it functions for them as place to live, shop and meet friends.
- The session provided a new perspective on the Town and assisted in the identification of elements of the public realm that could be looked at further.
Public Consultation 2
- The second public consultation event took place on the evening of 15th October 2019 with members of the public again invited to an engagement session with the Project Team and Carlow County Council. 2019 October
- Initial findings were presented in an interactive manner utilising 11 no. boards, with which participants were encouraged to engage with the aim of identifying ‘Strategic Areas’ within the Town.
- The result of this process has directly informed the Strategy with regard to the locating of future growth and the different public and private initiatives that should be facilitated and encouraged.
Engagement with Carlow Town Development Forum
- A meeting was held with the Carlow Town Development Forum at the Woodford Dolmen Hotel on the 27th November.
Engagement with landowners and Carlow College
- On 3rd December, a meeting was held with representatives of the landowners of the Barrow Track lands to discuss the Regeneration Strategy.
Engagement with landowners and Carlow College
- On 17th January, a series of consultation meetings were held between Carlow County Council and their representatives with Carlow College, the Pembroke landowners and the McLoughlin’s as landowners within the Town Centre to discuss aspects of the Regeneration Strategy
- A Presentation on the development of the Carlow Town Regeneration Strategy was made to the Carlow Town Elected Members at the Carlow Town Hall on 27th January 2020.
- The status of the Draft Strategy was made evident and the Elected Members had the opportunity to bring forward any comments on the Strategy prior to the next stage of the process.
Engagement with Carlow Town Development Forum and landowners
- Engagement was undertaken with Carlow Shopping Centre owner Gwynne Thomas at the offices of Avison Young on behalf of Carlow County Council on the 6th February.
- This meeting broadly discussed the Barrow Street link through the service yard as occupied by Penneys and owned by Musgraves. A number of separate meetings were held between Musgraves, Carlow County Council and their engineers before agreement was reached about the access/ egress arrangement and a letter of support was ultimately issued by Musgraves for the URDF Call 2.
- A meeting was held with the Carlow Town Development Forum at the Woodford Dolmen Hotel on the 11th February.
Engagement with IT Carlow and Carlow College
- Focused consultation took place with both Carlow College and IT Carlow on 1st July 2020.
- The consultation was carried out via Zoom and undertaken separately to ensure that each had the opportunity to discuss the issues relevant to their institution.
Carlow Town has many positive economic attributes such as its third level education provision and other educational institutions, proximity to Dublin, the River Barrow, tourism, restaurants, retail, sports, cultural facilities and many others. Developing these existing assets is seen as central to the future economic development of the Town.
Perceptions of the Town
Many of the perceptions of Carlow Town, including those working and living in the Town and visitors, refer to the absence of a defined Town Centre. Others commented on the lack of vibrancy in the Town Centre and the need for a balance in the range of services available.
The quality of infrastructure in Carlow Town was raised in relation to broadband connectivity, water and wastewater, and roads. An idea which received much positivity was the potential for a Free Wi-Fi service in the Town Centre which would attract a higher level of footfall.
In terms of Town Planning, the ideas of attracting businesses to the Town Centre and making it more accessible were raised during consultation. Discussions also focused on the need to develop existing industries within Carlow Town including IT, the construction sector and manufacturing.
Mobility issues raised related to accessibility and permeability within the Town, both vehicular and pedestrian, and the impact of traffic on the operation of the Town. Potential solutions to the existing issues centred on the need for a new approach to vehicle management that provides a balance between cars, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport links.
The many arts and cultural festivals that take place in Carlow every year contribute to a strong community
spirit. This helps to develop a united economy built on the Town’s assets and people. Instances of anti-social behaviour in relation to the night time economy were noted, with passive surveillance welcomed as a means of mitigating this problem.
The cultural assets of the Town were identified, i.e. Visual, Carlow Castle and the Carlow County Museum, with respect to their value in creating a unique urban landscape. The current underutilisation of the River Barrow was also discussed, as was the need to re-establish it as a main feature which can help define the urban environment.
Carlow Town is a dynamic base for education, learning and development with two Institutions of Higher Education, the Institute of Technology Carlow and Carlow College, together with circa 60,000 individuals who are Carlow Alumni. This is complimented by Carlow Kilkenny ETB who provide vocational education. The education providers approach is to support industry, by creating conditions for companies to grow and develop, to building networks and connections through Carlow County Council and other structures by providing a dynamic educational environment through which provides a suite of training, educational and business support options, placing innovation and people development at the core of development of the county.
IT Carlow and Carlow College have a Memorandum of Agreement in place that recognises and strengthens, the ongoing partnership between the two institutions and their shared interests and supports collaboration in areas such as academia, research, facilities, resources and community engagement.
The City of Freiburg in Germany, with a population of just over 200,000 people, is considered to be a place that sets the standard for sustainability. It is the critical consideration in relation to development, transport, lifestyle and the environment and an international exemplar. Over 30 years of continuity in planning, driven by social and environmental sustainability, has transitioned the City which has long terms ambitions to 2050 of a zero carbon place. Front loading of investment in key areas such as public transport were crucial to the success of Freiburg. There were many lessons learned which are worthy of consideration as the Regeneration Strategy for Carlow Town is implemented.
- Implement policies that will bring about large scale change in stages, choosing projects that are strongly supported in the first instance.
- Keep plans flexible and adaptable over time to allow for changing conditions.
- Policies should include both sticks and carrots to encourage people to change behaviour but making public transport, cycling and walking much easier.
- Organise land use and transportation on an integrated basis to ensure that travel distances can be kept short.
- Involving the general public should be an integral part of policy development and implementation.
- Support from regional and national government is vital in helping local policies to work.
- Long-term goals need to be pursued on a consistent basis.
- Officials have to be committed to long-term engagement, but always with the support and interaction of the people.
- Be creative and tactical in working with a wide range of different investors and other parties.
- Be proud of the achievements and celebrate them with the community.
- Continuity is vital.