MYLES BUCHANAN

Wicklow People - - NEWS -

SEV­ERAL weeks into the start of his ten­ure as the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Wick­low County Coun­cil and Frank Cur­ran al­ready seems at ease with his new sur­round­ings.

The Water­ford na­tive had been Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in Leitrim County Coun­cil from Fe­bru­ary 2014, and was the cho­sen can­di­date to take over as Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in Wick­low, where the po­si­tion had been tem­po­rar­ily filled by Bryan Doyle since the re­tire­ment of for­mer County Man­ager Ed­die Sheehy in 2015.

Speak­ing from the con­fines of his of­fice in County Build­ings, Mr Cur­ran speaks en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about Wick­low and the re­cep­tion he and his fam­ily have been af­forded since mov­ing here.

‘We are re­ally en­joy­ing it. We moved from Leitrim to Wick­low town. Our two chil­dren are at­tend­ing school here. One is in first year in the Do­mini­can Col­lege while the other at­tends third class at the Holy Rosary. We have been made so wel­come by every­one, in­clud­ing coun­cil staff, coun­cil­lors and the wider com­mu­nity. We are all re­ally im­pressed with the county.’

He started his new role with Wick­low County Coun­cil on Septem­ber 15, hav­ing pre­vi­ously served as a Di­rec­tor of Ser­vices with Water­ford County Coun­cil from 2007 to 2014, as Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer from 2004 to 2007 and Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive En­gi­neer from 2002 to 2004.

Prior to that he was As­sis­tant Res­i­dent En­gi­neer for the South­ern Cross Mo­tor­way with Dun Loaghaire/Rath­down County Coun­cil from 1998 to 2000.

Now his mind is firmly set on ad­vanc­ing Wick­low’s po­si­tion as a tourist des­ti­na­tion and a county to op­er­ate a busi­ness from.

‘Like I said, it’s a stun­ning county with plenty of po­ten­tial, par­tic­u­larly tourism-wise. Wick­low is very much the Gar­den County and has ev­ery­thing you could hope to of­fer, from blue flag beaches, to the moun­tains and woods,

‘Then you also have the ur­ban in­flu­ence and Wick­low’s prox­im­ity to Dublin. You have thriv­ing town cen­tres in the likes of Ark­low, Grey­stones, Bray and Wick­low town. As a county, Wick­low has a lot to of­fer.

‘The Lo­cal Enterprise Of­fice is now part of Wick­low County Coun­cil and plays a very im­por­tant role. We will be li­ais­ing with the IDA and Enterprise Ire­land about at­tract­ing busi­ness to Wick­low.

‘We also have a tourism strat­egy with Wick­low Tourism to take ad­van­tage of Ire­land’s An­cient East. Ba­si­cally we want peo­ple vis­it­ing the Hill of Tara to con­tinue along Ire­land’s An­cient East on to Wick­low. The big aim would be to keep the tourists here for a num­ber of nights, rather than just a day-visit.

‘The county has so much to of­fer, from Glen­dalough to the Wick­low Way, Pow­er­scourt and Russ­bor­ough. There are also a num­ber of very in­ter­est­ing projects lined up which could help im­prove tourism num­bers. Avondale For­est Park are work­ing on plans for a for­est ex­pe­ri­ence. There are a num­ber of green­ways across the county un­der de­vel­op­ment, with the green­way in Bless­ing­ton al­ready prov­ing a suc­cess.

‘I think we could also look at cre­at­ing cy­cle routes around the county. The next tranche of fund­ing for green­ways will be com­ing through soon and we need to be right at the front.

‘We need to pro­vide an ex­pe­ri­ence so that when tourists are here in Wick­low, they don’t just visit some­where like Glen­dalough and then leave. When vis­i­tors come to the county there needs to be a link be­tween out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, her­itage and food.’

Mar­ket­ing the County as an ideal lo­ca­tion to estab­lish a busi­ness, from small start-ups to in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies, is an­other pri­or­ity for the new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive.

‘We are very close to the Dublin mar­ket so Wick­low would be ide­ally suited for the es­tab­lish­ment of in­cu­ba­tion hubs. We need to re­ally push our­selves as a county so com­pa­nies in Dublin look­ing for a sec­ond site choose Wick­low, or a com­pany re­lo­cat­ing be­cause of Brexit re­gards Wick­low as the best op­tion.

‘We have a lower cost base, close prox­im­ity to Dublin and the pro­vi­sion of third level ed­u­ca­tion. Wick­low is al­ready very well po­si­tioned re­gard­ing in­vest­ment from the movie in­dus­try. Ob­vi­ously we have plenty of com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially from Belfast and Lim­er­ick.

‘The abol­ish­ment of seek­ing de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions from film stu­dios seek­ing to ex­pand or set up in the county was a good move and the elected mem­bers should be com­mended for that.

‘Wick­low has done very well re­cently from the likes of Vik­ings and Penny Dread­ful. We have been in talks with other groups, such as the Film Board and other ex­perts, about form­ing a steer­ing group so we can ex­pand on what Wick­low has to of­fer.’

‘Also at the mo­ment 21,000 work­ers com­mute else­where to work. We need to try and pro­vide pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to en­cour­age some­one to set up a small busi­ness. We have been in dis­cus­sions with the IDA and will be sur­vey­ing com­muters trav­el­ling to Dublin for prospec­tive em­ploy­ees lo­cated in Wick­low.’

Hous­ing is an­other pre­req- uisite, with Mr Cur­ran em­pha­sis­ing the need to build com­mu­ni­ties rather than just sim­ply con­struct houses with­out any nearby ser­vices.

‘We have an am­bi­tious So­cial Hous­ing Pro­gramme which we will be de­liv­er­ing. Cur­rently we have 200 units in var­i­ous stages of the planning process, with one or two al­ready on site, from now up un­til 2019. We will have to 500 by 2022. We are also work­ing along­side vol­un­tary hous­ing bod­ies’.

Frank Cur­ran, the new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Wick­low County Coun­cil.

Travel agents from New Zealand with Mary Gal­way from Tourism Ire­land (left).

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