Theoretical Town Centre Management Framework: Setting the Agenda for a Sustainable Future

This conference paper focuses on the current Town Centre Management (TCM) practices within Ireland’s rural towns after moving away from the use of Town Councils. The paper found that TCM partnerships were dispersed and that the viable solution to TCM would be for a Town Manager/CEO with support from local government to take the lead in ensuring the sustainability of rural towns in Ireland.

Date added 23 October 2021
Last updated 25 October 2021

This conference paper focuses on the current Town Centre Management (TCM) practices within Ireland’s rural towns after moving away from the use of Town Councils. Although the study focuses on Ireland, findings can be relevant on a broader scale. The paper found that TCM partnerships were dispersed and that the viable solution to TCM would be for a Town Manager/CEO with support from local government to take the lead in ensuring the sustainability of rural towns in Ireland.

The paper starts by defining the concept of TCM and provides some background on when Ireland practiced town councils. The aim of abolishing the town councils was to provide greater alignment ‘between local government and local development systems and agencies, particularly community and voluntary sector bodies’ (p. 2). However, the paper notes that this has diminished stakeholder knowledge and focus on civic engagement, and therefore, not offering the overarching focus required for sustainable town development. As such, the study presented in this paper is based on ten town locations in Ireland and ten face to face interviews and one pilot interview were carried out. Beforehand, two overarching themes were identified through a literature review, where the interviews revealed sub-themes:

  1. Ireland's current approach to town management
    1. Economic Imbalance between Rural Towns and Five Main Boroughs
    2. Significant Lack of Town Strategies and Representation
    3. Overly Reliant on Volunteers for Town Development
    4. Town Funding – Overly Complicated and Questions on Value for Money
  1. Past and current performance of local government
    1. Town Council Restoration in Previous Guise not Supported
    2. Politics acts as a barrier to Town Rejuvenation
    3. Municipal District Operations Sporadic and Require Improvements
    4. Public Participation is Limited, And Public Submissions Are Being Ignored

Results from the study suggests that it takes a large amount of time and effort from a range of stakeholders to maintain vibrancy and responsiveness in small rural town centres. The paper proceeds with making five recommendations in order to develop a TCM framework for Irish Rural Towns Centres, largely based on the need to measure and incorporate more public participation. Subsequently, the paper presents a six-step framework for TCM that aims to ensure sustainability of small towns in Ireland. The paper concludes that the framework illustrated will enhance understanding of place management and public participation in small towns and rural areas.