This Section contains the strategic context that has informed the making of this Strategy and within which it sits. The overall aim of this Section is to position the Strategy and its Interventions in relation to national, regional and local level policies and detail their role in, and contribution to, plan‐led development in Carlow.
The long-term vision for the future at a national level is set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF), which contains a series of goals in the form of National Strategic Outcomes (NSOs). The NSOs establish the foundation for Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for each region as well as forming the basis for the funding allocation under the NPF’s sister document, the National Development Plan (NDP). At the regional level, the RSES for the Southern Region guides the future growth of Carlow. The RSES seeks to leverage national and international connectivity, improve higher educational opportunities and enhance quality of life in order to secure strategic investment, underpinned by sustainable employment and housing development. At a local level, the Carlow County Development Plan 2015-2021 sets out the policies and objectives for the proper planning and sustainable development of the County for this period.
This Strategy includes a number of Interventions which contribute to urban regeneration in Carlow Town Centre. The Interventions address areas of vacancy and propose the redevelopment of strategic land holdings in a sustainable manner which promote positive improvements such as Town Centre living, community facilities, health & wellbeing and social and physical infrastructure. With the concept of ‘Compact Growth’ at the heart of the proposals, the combined outcomes of the Interventions provide a long-term approach to improve land management in the Town and regenerate urban areas for use in tackling social disadvantage and improving the public realm for residents, workers and visitors.
Project Ireland 2040
Project Ireland 2040 comprises the NPF and NDP documents and represents an important shift from previous approaches to long term planning and investment by Government. The NPF provides the planning framework to guide development and investment over the coming years, whereas the NDP serves as a companion document to the NPF and sets out a ten year strategy for public capital investment of almost €116 billion.
National Planning Framework Ireland (NPF) 2040
The NPF succeeds the National Spatial Strategy 2002- 2020 and provides a long-term strategy for the spatial development of Ireland and forms the top tier of Ireland’s planning policy hierarchy. The NPF has influenced the preparation of the RSES and will also serve to influence the preparation of County Development Plans through the inclusion of clear objectives surrounding the future development of Ireland.
The NPF sets out a number of key NSOs which have relevance to the future growth of Carlow Town. These are summarised as follows:
Compact Growth: This outcome seeks to manage the sustainable growth of compact cities, towns and villages, creating more attractive places in which people can live and work. Urban settlements contain many potential development areas that are suitable and capable of re-use to provide housing, jobs, amenities and services.
Sustainable Mobility: A key outcome is the move away from polluting and carbon intensive propulsion systems to new technologies such as electric vehicles. The introduction of electric and hybrid traction systems for public transport fleets will mean that by 2040 our cities and towns will enjoy a cleaner, quieter environment.
Enhanced Regional Accessibility: This outcome seeks to enhance accessibility between key urban centres of population and their regions. The aim is to ensure that all regions and urban areas in the Country have a high degree of accessibility to Dublin, as well as to each other.
A Strong Economy: This outcome will depend on creating places that can foster enterprise and innovation and attract investment and talent. Delivering this outcome will require the co-ordination of growth and place-making with investment in world class infrastructure to support economic competitiveness and enterprise growth.
Enhanced Amenity and Heritage: This outcome will ensure that our cities, towns and villages are attractive and can offer a good quality of life. It will require investment in well-designed public realm, which includes public spaces, parks and streets, as well as recreational infrastructure.
Transition to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society: The National Climate Policy Position establishes the national objective of achieving transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.
Sustainable Management of Water, Waste and other Environmental Resources: Conserving and enhancing the quality of our natural and environmental resources will become more important in a crowded and competitive world. Also of importance will be our capacity to create beneficial uses from products previously considered as waste, creating circular economic benefits.
The NPF sets out 10 Strategic Investment Priorities that are directly linked to the NSOs outlined. The number one investment priority for the NPF is ‘Housing and Sustainable Urban Development’. The NPF projects a need for a minimum of 550,000 new homes by 2040, half of which are targeted for provision within the built up area of Ireland’s five cities. The NPF signals a shift in Government policy towards securing more compact and sustainable urban development, to enable people to live nearer to where jobs and services are located and prioritising sustainable modes of transport.
The National Policy Objectives (NPOs) in the NPF that are of particular relevance to the future growth of Carlow Town are outlined as follows and include, inter alia:
3a - Securing Compact and Sustainable Growth: Deliver at least 40% of all new homes nationally, within the built-up footprint of existing settlements.
3c - Securing Compact and Sustainable Growth: Deliver at least 30% of all new homes that are targeted in settlements other than the five Cities and their suburbs, within their existing built-up footprints.
4 - Urban Places: Ensure the creation of attractive, liveable, well designed, high quality urban places that are home to diverse and integrated communities that enjoy a high quality of life and well-being.
5 – Competitive Places: Develop cities and towns of sufficient scale and quality to compete internationally and to be drivers of national and regional growth, investment and prosperity.
6 - Regeneration: Regenerate and rejuvenate cities, towns and villages of all types and scales as environmental assets, that can accommodate changing roles and functions, increased residential population and employment activity and enhanced levels of amenity and design quality, in order to sustainably influence and support their surrounding area.
11 - Achieving Urban Infill: In meeting urban development requirements, there will be a presumption in favour of development that can encourage more people and generate more jobs and activity within existing cities, towns and villages, subject to development meeting appropriate planning standards and achieving targeted growth.
26 - Healthy Communities: Support the objectives of public health policy including Healthy Ireland and the National Physical Activity Plan, through integrating such policies, where appropriate and at the applicable scale, with planning policy.
27 - Healthy Communities: Ensure the integration of safe and convenient alternatives to the car into the design of our communities, by prioritising walking and cycling accessibility to both existing and proposed developments, and integrating physical activity facilities for all ages.
33 - Housing: Prioritise the provision of new homes at locations that can support sustainable development and at an appropriate scale of provision relative to location.
35 - Housing: Increase residential density in settlements, through a range of measures including reductions in vacancy, re-use of existing buildings, infill development schemes, area or site-based regeneration and increased building heights.
54 – Climate Action: Reduce our carbon footprint by integrating climate action into the planning system in support of national targets for climate policy mitigation and adaptation objectives, as well as targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
57 – Water Management: Enhance water quality and resource management by:
- Ensuring flood risk management informs place-making by avoiding inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding in accordance with The Planning System and Flood Risk Management Guidelines for Planning Authorities;
- Ensuring that River Basin Management Plan objectives are fully considered throughout the physical planning process;
- Integrating sustainable water management solutions, such as Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDS), nonporous surfacing and green roofs, to create safe places.
The individual Interventions contained in this Strategy consist of a number of elements which contribute to the urban regeneration of Carlow Town Centre. These Interventions address areas of vacancy and propose the redevelopment of strategic land holdings in a sustainable manner which promote positive improvements such as increased Town Centre living, community facilities and social and physical infrastructure. With the concept of ‘Compact Growth’ at their heart, the combined outcomes of these Interventions provide a long-term approach to improve land management in the Town and re-appropriate urban areas for use in tackling social disadvantage, health and wellbeing and improving the public realm for residents, workers and visitors.
Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region (RSES)
The RSES provides the basis for the integration of land use and transport planning in the Southern Region, informing the preparation and implementation of plans, programmes and projects at all levels. The Vision for the Southern Region set out in the RSES is led by the need for transformative change. By 2040, the population of the Region will most likely grow by 380,000 people to reach almost two million and this growth will require new homes and new jobs.
The RSES seeks to build on the Southern Region’s strengths and potential to become a more prosperous, sustainable, climate resilient and attractive region for the benefit of its entire population.
The RSES has 11 no. Strategy Statements which seek to build a strong, resilient and sustainable region. The Strategy Statements relevant to Carlow and this Strategy include:
No.1. Strengthening and growing the cities and metropolitan areas; harnessing the combined strength of the 3 cities as a counterbalance to the Greater Dublin Area, through quality development, regeneration and compact growth; building on the strong network of towns and supporting villages and rural areas.
No. 2. Enhancing regional accessibility through upgraded transport infrastructure and digital connectivity allied to a transformed settlement hierarchy.
No. 4. Transforming the transport systems towards well-functioning, sustainable, integrated public transport, walking and cycling and electric vehicles.
No. 5. Building a competitive, innovative and productive economy.
No. 7. Strengthening and protecting the Region’s diversity, language and culture, recreational assets, and natural and built heritage.
No. 8. Safeguarding and enhancing the environment through sustainable development, prioritising action on climate change across the Region and driving the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society.
No. 9. Providing infrastructure and services in a sustainable, planned and infrastructure-led manner to ensure the sustainable management of water waste and other environmental resources.
No. 10. Achieving improved education, health and public services and facilities for all citizens and communities.
Carlow Town is identified as a Key Town in the RSES. The RSES identifies the Town’s strategic location within the South-East, its pivotal inter-regional role and its strong links to Midlands and the Greater Dublin Area as its strengths. The RSES recognises Carlow as a regional centre for education, healthcare, public services, shopping and arts, culture, leisure and recreation for a wide area extending into Laois, Kildare and Wicklow.
In this regard, this Strategy will act to support the RSES Regional Policy Objective No. 14(a) and specifically:
To strengthen and support the role of Carlow Town as a self-sustaining regional and inter-regional economic driver supporting investment in the strategic employment development potential of the town, while promoting and facilitating economic integration between urban centres in the county including Tullow and Muine Bheag (Bagnelstown), other urban centres within the Southern Region and the Eastern and Midlands Region including the Dublin Metropolitan Area. Subject to the outcome of the planning process and environmental assessments the following are supported:
- To strengthen the regional and interregional role of the Education, Research and Innovation Capacity through development of the Multi-Campus TUSE in the provision of internationally recognised higher education and research opportunities which can facilitate transformational change and act as a key driver and enabler for sustainable future employment growth within Carlow and the Southern Region.
- To support the town centre led economic regeneration of Carlow, leveraging its strategic location and accessibility on inter-regional road and rail networks building upon its inherent strengths of education, connectivity, skills, innovation, enterprise, tourism, culture/arts and retail services.
- To improve the public realm and attractiveness of the Town Centre through development and connectivity of key urban regeneration locations in the town centre with improved accessibility from the historic town centre to the Railway Station and Fair Green.
- To seek investment in sustainable transport solutions, improved walking and cycling connectivity routes throughout the town including provision of a town bus service through a Local Transport Plan.
- To support the delivery of the infrastructural requirements identified for Carlow subject to the outcome of the planning process and environmental assessments.
- To seek investment and support in the delivery of culture, arts, and tourism infrastructure together with other physical and community infrastructural requirements identified for Carlow town and the wider county area.
- To support development of underused lands along the River Barrow as a strategic natural asset for the town. Any future development of underused lands along the River Barrow or proposals for an additional bridge should be subject to further studies to inform the exact nature and intensity that could be accommodated without giving rise to adverse effects on sensitive Natura 2000 habitats and consider any in combination effects arising from proposals for a bridge.
Carlow County Development Plan 2015-2021
The Carlow County Development Plan 2015-2021 sets out the relevant policy goals for Carlow Town at a local level. The Development Plan promotes sustainable economic, social and cultural development, taking advantage of its strategic regional location in the South-East Region. The overarching vision of the Development Plan is to achieve a vibrant County of opportunity with a high quality of life and an attractive quality environment. The Development Plan recognises the importance of Carlow Town to the wider surrounding area. The overall ethos of this Strategy aligns with that of the Development Plan in relation to the future social, economic and physical/environmental development of Carlow Town.
Joint Spatial Plan for the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area 2012-2018 (as extended)
The Joint Spatial Plan for the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area 2012-2018 (as extended) is concerned with charting the future built, environmental, social and economic development of the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area. It provides a detailed framework for the management and regulation of spatial development and use of land. Its goal is to retain the unique and special character of the Greater Urban Area, while also fostering positive change and good development. It is concerned with steering development so that it contributes positively to social, economic and environmental well-being, prioritising changes that are needed and identifying opportunities to enhance the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area and the available quality of life. This Strategy supports the relevant strategic objectives, policies, goals and related provisions of the Joint Spatial Plan for the social, economic and physical/ environmental development of Carlow Town, including (inter alia):
The core strategy principle to consolidate the urban area ensuring the vitality and viability of the Town Centre;
The core strategy principle to deliver development that supports sustainable modes of transport;
The core strategy principle to advance key opportunity sites such as the Barrow Track Site (Opportunity Site 2); Court Place Site (Opportunity Site 3); Potato Market (Opportunity Site 4); Pembroke Road Sites (Opportunity Sites 6); Barrack Street (Opportunity Site 8); and In and around Train Station (Opportunity Site 9);
The Core Aim of the Plan to focus development on Carlow Town to drive growth within the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area and the wider hinterland and ensure Carlow Town Centre remains at the heart of high-order retail, commercial, transport and tourism services provision.
- Objective CTO1 Consolidate the built form of Carlow Town.
- Objective CTO2 Reinforce the quantum and diversity of uses within Carlow Town Centre.
- Objective CT05 Encourage specific urban renewal projects and advance opportunity sites.
- Objective CO4 to create a strong, efficient local economy, delivering growing numbers of jobs and a diverse range of industrial, commercial and retailing enterprises, which can be easily accessed by residents and visitors;
- Objective CO6 to promote sustainable modes of transport in particular public transport, cycling and walking, improve transport infrastructure generally and in particular for those with mobility impairments, and deliver development patterns that are conducive to sustainable modes of transport.
Funding Progression and Opportunities
The aim of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) is to support more compact and sustainable development, as set out in Project Ireland 2040, through the regeneration and rejuvenation of Ireland’s five cities and other large towns, in line with the objectives of the NPF and the NDP. Under the URDF, Carlow County Council received funding towards the preparation of this Strategy and has also recently applied for funding for a Public Realm and Pedestrian Linkage Project in Carlow Town, that includes interventions within this Strategy, at a cost of c. €20 million.
Furthermore, a Stage 1 Rebuilding Ireland funding application has been submitted by Carlow County Council to refurbish 7 no. vacant dwellings along Barrack Street which have been derelict and vacant since c. 2014. Carlow County Council seek to develop 7 no. social units which, once complete, will work alongside the interventions in this Strategy to regenerate Barrack Street. In this regard, this Strategy provides a platform for additional Local Authority development opportunities that support town centre living, the removal of dereliction and the provision of community living facilities.
Additionally, Carlow Town was allocated funding through the Fáilte Ireland Destination Towns Scheme. Carlow received €500,000 towards enhancing the Tourism Experience Offering in the Town. The scheme is part of the National Tourism Development Authority’s work to drive a better regional spread of overseas and domestic visitors and spend. The funding will support the enhancement of public spaces and the creation of a way-finding project to enhance the visitor experience in the Town. This Strategy will complement the works funded under this scheme and will support it in making Carlow Town an attractive place to live, work and visit.
It is expected that significant additional development opportunities in Carlow Town will come about as a direct result of the URDF and other funding mechanisms that support the interventions outlined in this Strategy. There are many different funding schemes available to local authorities, and it was considered that the best way to harness potential funding opportunities was to put a long-term Strategy in place from which schemes could be targeted that would most directly support the regeneration of Carlow Town.
This Strategy has the potential to provide a platform for a range of new developments within the Town Centre. The proposed interventions, and their role in securing funding for Carlow Town, will enable this Strategy to be a catalyst for future development in the Town. Carlow County Council expects to take advantage of future URDF Calls and other funding options to support the implementation and delivery of the interventions outlined in this Strategy.
- Objective C011 to ensure that new buildings and the spaces around them are designed and serviced so they are clean and all people can move safely and comfortably in and around them; provide a range of good quality public open spaces across the Greater Urban Area as well as walking and cycling networks to encourage better public health.
- Objective CO14 to recognise and protect the special identity and distinctive heritage assets within the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area and ensure future changes are complementary to the existing sense of place with new structures and spaces achieving a high quality of design.
- Economic Development Objective ECN O01 to build on the role of the Greater Carlow Graiguecullen Urban Area as the principal driver for economic development in County Carlow and reflecting its designation as a County Town.
- Economic Development Objective ECN O07 to foster a compact and permeable town centre in order to support and generate synergistic commercial and retail relationships, to ensure the town centre is a bustling and attractive social and recreational hub that continuously builds on its potential to draw in locals and visitors.
- Urban Design Objective DBF 02 to deliver a high-quality built environment, by consolidating the urban structure, and reinforcing and enhancing the existing character with infill development or urban renewal and focusing on place-making with greenfield development.
- Transport Objective P10 Enhance the public realm in the vicinity of Carlow Train Station and Carlow Bus Park as these are strategic entry points for locals and visitors.
- Transport Objective P24 Prioritise the movements of pedestrians and cyclists within the public realm by measures including the redistribution of car space to non-car modes of transport, retrofitting road junctions to make them more cycle and pedestrian friendly and promoting walking routes
- Transport Objective P25 Provide a coherent cycle network with emphasis on safety and keeping distances between origin points and key destination points as short and as direct as possible.
Transport Objective P27 Seek the provision of additional pedestrian and cycling linkages within the town centre and the Greater Urban Area generally to make the area more permeable and make these modes of transport faster than the private car, additional proposed linkages include:
- Railway Street to Green Lane
- Railway Street to College Street
- College Street to Tullow Street
Local Economic and Community Plan 2016-2021
This Strategy also reflects the aims of the Carlow Local Economic and Community Plan through the following high-level goals of the Plan:
- Build thriving, resilient, sustainable and inclusive communities;
- Strengthen and promote a thriving and sustainable enterprise culture in County Carlow;
- Ensure access to education and skills for all members of communities;
- Optimise the tourism product and message;
- Provide the required infrastructure for the County;
- Maximise external investment into Carlow.
South East Regional Enterprise Plan
The purpose of the South-East Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 is to refresh, refocus and further build on the positive regional collaboration fostered by the Regional Action Plan for jobs over the period to 2020. It takes account of the changed and improved economic circumstances nationally, the emergence of new challenges to enterprise development and competitiveness and the persistence of uneven economic progress across the regions in Ireland. The Enterprise Plan is an integral part of the broader policy system aimed at driving economic growth and sustaining better standards of living throughout Ireland. It has a strong role to play in the context of Project Ireland 2040, and more specifically in the implementation of the NPF and the RSES.
The Enterprise Plan states that through collaboration, the South-East can provide the scale and critical mass in terms of population base, skills, property solutions and quality of life, to compete nationally and internationally. The Plan includes Five Strategic Objectives as follows:
- Enhance the existing environment for enterprise activity and company growth; and build greater resilience into the regional economy.
- Establish the South-East as a place of choice for talent and investment and market the region as such.
- Develop a regional engagement strategy that aligns with the Regional Assembly’s RSES and highlights the critical infrastructural developments required to enhance the economic potential in the South East.
- Make the South-East a ‘learning region’ with education, knowledge generation and exchange, and innovation as central activities that allow all to play a role in the economic, social and cultural development of the Region.
- Develop the South-East as a region that is attractive to both domestic and international visitors with a sense of place and connected tourist amenities.
This Strategy aligns with the above Objectives and directly supports Strategic Objective 2 and Action 3 - Pilot a Town Renewal Project.
The Enterprise Plan also recognises the need for place-making activities across the region, particularly in our towns and urban centres. The availability of high quality urban centres to live and socialise in, with a range of amenities such as recreational areas, public realm and a good retail mix are critical drivers of inward investment.
The South-East offers significant potential and benefits to people or businesses that choose to locate in the Region. In this respect, Carlow County Council, through this Strategy, is seeking to undertake place making activities that enhance and build on a the Town’s existing assets in attracting people back to the town and to motivate people to move here.
Future Development Plans for Carlow
This Strategy seeks to realise the potential of Carlow Town as a high-functioning, inclusive, compact and accessible town underpinned by a robust and diverse local economy. The overriding objective is to create a strong sense of place, a vibrant Town Centre that offers opportunities for education and cultural experiences, a network of linked open spaces, recreational uses and other social infrastructure elements that in combination provide a good quality of life for all.
This Strategy provides a long term, integrated regeneration plan, outlining strategic Interventions that will have a central role in delivering the objectives outlined over the next 20 years. These Interventions will become catalysts of change, delivering innovative projects in the Town Centre and setting the standard for future regeneration and development.
The long term strategic remit of this Strategy means that it will cover several development plan periods. It will inform the drafting of future planning policy
and the approach to control of development, with principles outlined herein used to inform future decisions by the Council and other stakeholders undertaking development in the Town Centre.
Preliminary design work has been undertaken on the Intervention Areas in order to engage with stakeholders, test the overall viability of the Intervention proposals and provide a direction of travel for their implementation. It is expected that more detailed masterplanning and feasibility studies will follow as individual projects are progressed.
Overall it is envisaged that the Carlow Regeneration Vision and Implementation Strategy 2040 will provide the strategic framework, across several development plans, that ensures that Carlow not only meets the national and regional policy objectives up to 2040 but that its regeneration delivers a revitalised Town Centre that is a place for its people.
People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025
This Strategy supports the strategic aim of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sports Policy Statement ‘People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025’, to have a vibrant, attractive tourism sector that makes a significant contribution to employment across the Country, is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, helps promote a positive image of Ireland overseas, and is a sector that people wish to work in. The Policy Statement seeks to prioritise investment in order to maximise the return from tourism in the long-term, supporting enterprises and jobs and providing an attractive, competitive overall offering for tourists.
This Strategy seeks to heighten the attraction of Carlow to visitors by enhancing the quality and sense of place that they experience during their visit. Tourism is a key contributor to the economy and this Strategy seeks to develop Carlow’s tourism industry to reflect the highest standards of environmental and economic sustainability. It supports Carlow’s existing tourism assets such as the River Barrow and Carlow Castle, seeking to improve these through the enhancement of the public realm. This will deliver improved public spaces, enhanced linkages, more signage and an overall improvement to the quality of the Town Centre and its attraction as a tourism destination.