Project Main Street

Yesterday, September 16th 2017, we launched our #ProjectMainStreet

The Social Democrats have put forward a 10-point plan to revive ailing and run-down main streets in towns and villages around the country.

The measures aim to revitalise businesses in local towns and therefore creating more local jobs. Anyone who lives in rural and urban towns or villages across the country is familiar with many of our main streets being increasingly run down and neglected, with boarded-up shop units and closed businesses. Our proposals are about finding ways to put the life and vibrancy back into our main streets, both in rural Ireland and in pockets of our cities.

The measures we are putting forward are about promoting regional economic development, protecting the interests of main street traders, giving a leg-up to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and encouraging community, sporting and arts groups to use our main streets in practical and innovative ways. We are too dependent on using community rooms provided by the Catholic church, why not tap into the vast amount of vacant commercial property to help community groups develop?

It’s time to shift our focus from Direct Foreign Investment back to supporting SME’s working at local levels—there is off course a need for DFI, but history has shown us over and over again the devastating effect when large multinational leaves a town: mass unemployment for decades in a small town. Our policy from the onset has been backing indigenous small and medium-sized enterprises. Ireland’s SMEs account for 3 in every 4 jobs in private sector employment. There are about 185,000 businesses in Ireland, and SMEs account for 99% of them. While employment in on the rise, the rate of job growth for SMEs is far behind total growth. Why? Because our local businesses and self-employed aren’t getting the level of backing given to multinationals. The Social Democrats want to see Ireland’s success in foreign direct investment mirrored for local businesses and the self-employed.

Empty units on Ashbourne’s High Street
12 units on High Street Ashbourne were never opened/let out

Our 10-step plan for #ProjectMainStreet

1. Promote regional economic development by investing in capital projects that boost industrial and commercial capacity across the country such as improved rural broadband,
electricity capacity, and third level technological centres.

2. End rates rebates on vacant premises to encourage the use of empty premises,particularly by community, sports, social and arts groups.

3. Improve local authority funding by allowing them to adjust their commercial rates and street-parking rates to promote the commercial viability of main street businesses. Funding
would also be provided for environmental improvement works such as street lighting, footpaths, bicycle stands, landscaping etc.

4. Town and village regeneration through the expansion of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, which provides funding to help rejuvenate local communities, and allowing more urban pockets to qualify for it.

5. Strict enforcement of out-of- town shopping centre planning guidelines to ensure that main streets are not adversely affected by new developments.

6. Tackle vacant and derelict sites through our draft law, the Urban Regeneration and Housing (Amendment) Bill 2017 which would help end the underuse of town centre sites and minimise dereliction.

7. End upward only rents, which can undermine businesses and don’t take account of ups and downs in business cycles.

8. Repopulate main streets by encouraging over-the- shop conversion to residential and dealing with current mortgage blockages for over-the- shop/mixed use developments.

9. Roll out town websites with listings of all shops, services, contacts, events, promotions, opening times etc.

10. Promote community banking through supports for the sector to improve the availability of credit in local communities.

You can download the full document with our proposals here:  Project Main Street proposals 

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