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rural centre boost Derelict pubs and shops will be converted into homes and prioritised for social housing

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Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Derelict shops, pubs, restaurants and offices in town centres will be converted into homes and prioritised for social housing for older or disabled people and smaller families under a new government push to boost rural centres.

Technical support will be provided to approved housing bodies to find derelict commercial properties and assess their potential for social housing.

As well as a focus on age-friendly housing and housing for people with reduced mobility, there will be an increased provision of one-bedroomed properties for smaller families.

In a major plan designed to boost rural Irish towns to be launched by the Government today, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys and junior housing minister Malcolm Noonan will announce the Town Centre First policy, which will aim to create town centres that are “viable, vibrant and attractive” places to live and work.

Vacant pubs will also be turned into homes under updated planning regulations until 2025.

The conversion of protected structures for housing will also be encouraged.

The Croí Cónaithe Fund, designed to revamp local towns through turning vacant properties and brownfield sites into homes, will see 2,000 sites used for housing by 2025.

Towns with a population of more than 400 will be targeted by the new policies in a bid to reduce the “pattern of stagnation or decline”.

Town teams and Town Centre First offices will be set up around the country.

According to the Town Centre First document seen by the Irish Independent, the teams will roll out a web portal that will be used to build a database on a town and keep track of the ways it can be improved.

This will also include a Health Check programme to track progress.

The policy document states that this plan will have to be integrated with the statutory development planning system to ensure there are no “alternative development scenarios that undermine it”.

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“This includes seeking to avoid the facilitation of proposals elsewhere in the town or the local authority area that would be at odds with Town Centre First,” it states.

More than €500m is already allocated to towns through the Urban and Rural Regeneration and Development Funds.

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