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As we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, we see the changes it has made to our working and social lives. While mass gatherings have been suspended, the restrictions now in place have further highlighted the requirement for carefully designed public spaces in regional towns. Regional towns are very dependent on these public spaces to maintain social and economic life. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to deliver better public space for these towns to recover, thrive and be successful in our new normal.

The reality of current remote working arrangements would indicate that it will become more common in the coming years, more so than previously predicted. A lifestyle closer to family, closer to environmental amenities and less hours wasted in traffic is hard to argue with, but this has now led to an increased demand and prices for homes outside the big cities.

Since the introduction of social-distancing measures, the importance of outdoor spacing is now more obvious. This is a challenge for us as designers and calls for thoughtfully conceived spaces that contribute to society. The main objective is to keep people safe while also utilising space to create a public realm suitable for the present reality and the post-COVID world.

High quality public spaces can complement busy working environments. Public realm developments encourage both locals and tourists to visit a place, and use the amenities, and stimulate economic activity depending on the services available. Well established business areas attract both local customers and visitors by bringing life to the public space around them, making the area more appealing and associating. In this way, both the businesses and the public space are linked and commend each other.

Properly designed public spaces are essential in creating a sense of place and environments within which people wish to visit, live, or work. In public realm projects, such as projects where the pedestrian is prioritised, these can produce huge benefits for the local economy and community as well as improving the social well-being of its users.

One of the key funders of public realm projects in Ireland has been the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which lists, amongst its objectives, “the revitalisation and regeneration of towns and villages” and “improved community development and quality of life”.

It is the aim of TOBIN to contribute to these objectives, providing imaginative, sustainable and enjoyable public spaces.

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