Plans progress to help revitalise Clara town

Work is underway on a number of initiatives to help revitalise Clara.

The first stages of the preparation of a Town Centre First plan for Clara has commenced. Urban Agency Architects Ltd was appointed to prepare the plan in July and the consultants have met with representatives of a newly-formed Clara Town Team as part of the initial steps.

Last December, Clara was one of 26 towns nationwide to be allocated €100,000 funding by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys for the delivery of Town Centre First Plans.

The Clara Town Team, supported by Offaly County Council, has been established with members representing the local community council, heritage society, GAA, tidy towns, family resource centre, religions, primary schools, business owners and representatives and local councillors.

The council has also appointed a town regeneration officer, Olwen Cummins, to manage the implementation of the Government's Town Centre First policy on a local level.

The local authority has previously identified the need to direct new retail and commercial development into the centre of Clara and to tackle vacancy and dereliction.

The council says the plan will be developed by the consultants following “an extensive communication and collaborative process”.

The Clara Town Centre First plan will also include comprehensive assessments and preliminary designs in the areas of planning, urban design, landscape architecture, conservation, environment and engineering.

Among the assessments to be prepared are a Clara Town Centre Health Check Programme, an analysis of building and land usage survey with particular reference to opportunity sites and other large underutilised sites.

Meanwhile, there have been some 60 applications to date from Clara for funding from the Streetscape Enhancement Initiative. Clara is to receive €100,000 in funding under this scheme to help enhance streetscapes and shopfronts.

Under the initiative, retailers and property owners will be provided with grants that they can use to improve the exterior of their buildings, carry out artwork or install features such as street furniture or canopies.