Cork County Council has unveiled a significant suite of measures to support communities, businesses and industry as they look to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Project “ACT”, or Activating County Towns, will see newly formed Town Teams working on individual plans for 23 towns in County Cork designed to stimulate and support the economy.
At a time when its own income sources have been severely impacted, the Council has moved swiftly to give confidence to the business, retail and community sectors through prioritised and targeted funding. Project “ACT” is being run across Cork County Council’s eight Municipal Districts with the support of Elected Members, and will see the creation of multi-sectoral teams with a targeted focus on rebuilding the economy and community life in their areas.
As a first step, a fund worth €6 million has been committed to support community, festival, events and town enhancement works. This will be used to build upon the remarkable community resilience that has been sustained since restrictions were introduced in mid-March.
In preparation for the phased return of business and community life, the 23 new Town Teams have been working to introduce specific enhanced physical distancing and pedestrian friendly zones in each location. This will include the inclusion of additional footpath space, some changes to traffic flow and outdoor supports for businesses requiring socially distanced queueing.
Cork County Council has been engaging with Elected Members of Council, business and community leaders to collaborate on how best to implement these changes, and support businesses looking to re-open safely at the appropriate time.
Some of the immediate actions being taken include;
- A deep clean of the main retail and pedestrian areas
- Decluttering and fixing street furniture
- Replanting of trees and flowerbeds
- Additional road/pavement markings
- Installation of 1,400 temporary bollards
Supports for vulnerable people and the over 70s are being integrated into the heart of these plans though the Older Persons Council CARE Programme. Specific measures will be introduced to enable these valued citizens to safely return to their full and active role in daily life.
Cllr. John Paul O’Shea has welcomed the initiative, saying;
“Cork County Council will work closely with communities and businesses as we manage our way out of the current crisis. Our message is simple – Cork County Council will walk with you on every step of the road to recovery. Activating our County Towns will reward the civic pride that has resulted in stronger communities, and an optimism that this strength will see us through. I would like to commend all the council staff who are working tirelessly in each of the 23 towns, and to those who continue to provide the emergency support needed to deal with COVID-19.”
The Council can also reaffirm its commitment to its County-wide investment programme in towns and villages to ensure they can maximise the potential for future growth. During the COVID-19 period, Cork County Council finalised a loan agreement with the Council of Europe Development Bank. This is in addition to the loan facility from the European Investment Bank, which had previously been secured to fund the County Social Sustainability Programme.
Project ACT will also see funding released through a mix of capital investment and business supports designed to help stimulate the Cork economy during the phased lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown. This will also prime the economy for future growth.
As well as providing emergency support since restrictions were introduced in March, Cork County Council officials have been very active in other areas to prepare for the return of economic activity. These include;
- Continuing to progress projects through design, planning and tendering. Since restrictions were introduced, projects worth €22 million have gone to tender. These will support an immediate economic return for these communities, once work resumes
- A focused programme of measures targeted at supporting the SME sector through LEO and Economic and Tourism Development Department. This includes a range of direct supports to businesses preparing to re-open or diversify
- A targeted Domestic Tourist Campaign, in conjunction with Visit Cork, to support tourism in each of the 23 towns, to support a revival in late 2020, and throughout 2021.
Many events that had been planned for 2020 have been cancelled. Cork County Council is committing to meeting with organisers of those events to agree a timetable for their rescheduling and establish what supports are required.
Chief executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey, says;
“People across County Cork have shown incredible solidarity in recent weeks. They have stayed apart from their neighbours and friends, while ensuring that everyone who needed support received it. Cork County Council was at the forefront of the Community Call initiative, but we also recognised that the road needed to be prepared for life after COVID-19. There are many challenges that lie ahead, but by taking this action now and investing in our communities and our businesses, we can plan with a degree of confidence. From making public spaces suitable for social distancing, to supporting businesses through various initiatives, Cork County Council will do everything it can to support the entire community. This is the first time in the Council’s history that activity of this scale has been focused directly on towns and their communities. Our staff will work directly with businesses and communities, as we weather this storm. We started this together, and we will finish it together.”