Report: Study tour of the Republic of Ireland

Representatives from HTF joined delegates from all disciplines in local authorities, and from the private and university sectors, for the conference in Kilkenny on 9th July as part of the Forum’s ongoing engagement with the Republic.

Although plans for a more extensive tour were affected by the economic situation, the event offered an opportunity for information exchange on two major topics – the public realm and tourism. The Forum has been working with colleagues in Ireland for several years as its work on the public realm is very well regarded and now that Fàilte Ireland (the national tourism body for Ireland) is keen to promote ‘heritage tourism’ and to offer guidance to local authorities, HTF has been asked to help.

The Forum’s Chair, Sam Howes, and Director, Chris Winter were able to make contributions to the conference and the tourism workshop held on Thursday afternoon, led by Linda Campbell, Tourism Policy Planner of Fàilte Ireland, which also sponsored the conference dinner.

Sam, in his presentation, talked about “21 years of focusing on heritage” and stressed the importance of “high quality outcomes… local distinctiveness… and… sensitive approached to change in historic places”.

Kilkenny is a regional centre and home to the Heritage Council and the Design Craft Centre and the Council is currently engaged in major public realm works image around the City’s Castle. The Parade Tower in the castle - the venue for the conference - is a magnificent example of a contemporary use of an historic building, with state of the art technology and high quality design and materials.

Returning via Cork, the HTF delegation were given a short tour of the City which has made major improvements to the public realm in the St Patrick and Grand Parade areas of the City, whilst accepting that some of the Architectural Conservation Areas were in need of attention to enhance and conserve their special character.

Dalia Lichfield, of Lichfield Planning and David Bruce, of UWE, who also represented HTF, were both very engaged by the enthusiasm of colleagues in Kilkenny and Cork to embrace change whilst preserving what is best of their heritage, and hope to develop the relationship, through HTF.