MKO’s Project Communications team recently worked on the public consultation phase of the Tubbercurry Town Centre First (TCF) Plan. Tubbercurry was selected as the pilot town for Co Sligo under the first phase of the government’s TCF policy, which is aimed at revitalising the centres of our regional towns as places in which to live, work, visit and do business.
MKO’s Project Communications team helped to devise a consultation strategy to ensure that the views of the residents and business owners of Tubbercurry were represented as strongly as possible in the final TCF plan. This strategy encompassed several distinct phases, beginning with the circulation of detailed surveys to generate a baseline of public opinion about the present state of the town and to gather a wide range of views on the challenges currently facing Tubbercurry and the opportunities the final plan should aim to exploit. The strategy then allowed for multiple in-person public consultation events to be held in the town to further explore and expand on the opinions and views of the community.
Two distinct surveys – one aimed specifically at business owners, the other at residents – were designed and circulated, both online and via hard-copy versions. Once these surveys had been completed, collected and analysed, the TCF team were able to collate the data and present it to the community as a live reflection of the existing public opinion of the town and the challenges it faces.
This data set was presented to attendees at the first of the in-person consultation events, along with the results of other relevant surveys which had been carried out as part of the plan, such as traffic and football surveys. After the presentation, the attendees were split into small working groups and invited to offer their own thoughts on what the goals and objectives of the TCF plan should be.
Opinions at this initial consultation event were varied. Several of the business owners expressed serious concerns over the loss of parking in the town centre and the potentially harmful effects this could have on their trade. Other attendees were concerned with the level of vacancy and dereliction of buildings in the centre of the town and believed that the TCF plan should focus on bringing these premises back into use. More of the residents expressed a desire for more amenities in the town, particularly for young people.
The views and opinions recorded through these conversations at the first consultation event, together with the data generated through the surveys, led to the creation of a long-list of projects to be brought forward to the next phase of consultation. These projects were varied in their scope and ambition; some were regarded as ‘easy wins’ which could be implemented quickly and at a relatively low cost, while others were much more complex.
The long-list was presented to attendees at the second in-person consultation event a few weeks later. Attendees were again divided into breakout groups, each with its own facilitator, and asked to discuss the long-listed projects with the aim of whittling the long-list down into a short-list of a dozen or so projects to be prioritised in the final plan.
This short-list formed the basis of the final round of in-person public consultation, held a couple of weeks later. During this session, the finer points of the short-listed projects were teased out in greater detail, with attendees asked to provide specific ideas about the forms certain projects should take, where in the town they should be located, how best to bring them to realisation, etc.
The Town Centre First policy explicitly places the people of a given town at the core of the planning process. Through an extensive process of public consultation, the views and opinions of a wide range of the residents, business owners and consumers of Tubbercurry were gathered, analysed and refined. These views formed the bedrock of the final Tubbercurry TCF Plan, which has since been completed and will be put into effect in the coming months and years.
Our Project Communications team was delighted to be able to play a role in the public consultation phase and looks forward to offering its expertise and support on more Town Centre First plans as the policy continues its rollout to towns around Ireland in the near future.