Former garda stations, banks and a courthouse chosen to become community centres and remote working hubs

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

Philip Ryan

Former banks and garda stations in regional towns have been selected to be developed into community centres and remote working hubs under a government scheme aimed at reviving rural Ireland. One former courthouse has also been chosen.

Around €7.5m in funding to purchase and renovate 36 derelict buildings has been approved under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Local authorities were asked to engage with communities and identify suitable properties to turn into community centres and enterprise hubs, remote working facilities and youth centres.

Some of the buildings selected under the scheme include:

• The former garda stations in Tarmonbarry and Ballintubber, Co Roscommon;

• The former courthouse in New Ross and former Bank of Ireland building at Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford;

• The former Bank of Ireland building in Rathkeale, Co Limerick;

• The former garda station in Ashford, Co Wicklow, and the former Bank of Ireland building in Carnew, Co Wicklow;

The FCA Hall in Mitchelstown, Co Cork;

• The former Bank of Ireland building in Cootehill, Co Cavan;

A former commercial property in Athenry, Co Galway.

Other properties will be announced when sales are completed under a scheme which has been allocated €30m.

Councils are able to draw down a maximum of €400,000 which can be used to buy and renovate one building or split the money in half between two buildings.

The scheme typically funds communities with a population of up to 10,000 people.

Larger rural towns with a population of up to 15,000 people may be eligible if an application for funding is particularly strong and the project will have a significant impact on the area.

The scheme is focused on buildings which have become eyesores in rural towns and villages. It is hoped the funding can be used to bring life into old structures which were once cornerstones of the community.

Apart from refurbishing buildings into community facilities, the funding can also be used to develop sites into parks and green spaces. The state support also allows councils to develop derelict sites and buildings into outdoor dining spaces or plazas in town centres.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said the scheme was about “tackling the scourge of vacancy and dereliction” in rural towns.

“It’s about taking those old, rundown buildings that have been lying idle for far too long,” she said.

“Now, they will be given a new lease of life and converted into community hubs.

“The list I am publishing includes old garda stations, bank buildings and even a ­former courthouse.

“These will now be taken into public ownership and, most importantly, will be turned into spaces where the local community can gather and hold events.”

Ms Humphreys said the redeveloped buildings would become “important assets” for local communities and ensure that towns and villages “continue to be at the centre of our national wellbeing”.

“Over the coming months, we will see the development of community spaces, remote working and youth facilities or enterprise hubs.”

She said the funding announcement would “ensure that communities have the resources to develop new amenities and facilities in line with needs they have identified themselves.

“I want to pay tribute to the communities who responded to this initiative with enthusiasm,” Ms Humphreys added.

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