North County: Swords Castle gets €3m refit as town centre set for a makeover
North county Dublin's biggest town, Swords, is getting a makeover.
The facelift on the Main Street will include the installation of bike racks, the provision of new seating and the removal of old phone boxes.
The town's centre is also aiming for the international Purple Flag award - which is similar to the Blue Flag accreditation for beaches. This standard has been linked to boosting the economy of areas awarded it.
READ MORE: Fingal: Call for dog parks in Fingal area
"It will take seven or eight months to achieve that but it means we are serious about improving the town," said Tony Lambert, CEO of Fingal Chamber of Commerce.
READ MORE: Portrane: Surge in home burglaries
Town centres that have won the Purple Flag award previously have seen an increased footfall of around 10pc. Fingal County Council and Fingal Chamber of Commerce are working jointly on the project.
According to the last national census, the town has a population of 45,000 people.
READ MORE: Skerries: Robberies on the rise in 2015
"Swords, like many towns, has suffered greatly in the recession. Swords was a traditional village with a main street right through it, and developed into a very, very substantial town.
"The Main Street is our main focus to regenerate - we need more shops and to increase footfall," Mr Lambert said.
READ MORE: Swords: Beware of door-to-door callers
Other initiatives for the regeneration of the town centre include the painting of lamp posts and shop fronts. Hot-spot graffiti areas will also be targeted as part of the works with the help of the probation services.
Swords Castle is to be at the centre of this rejuvenation process and Fingal County Council has assigned €1m-a-year for the next three years to work on the redevelopment of the medieval site. Mr Lambert said that a specific retail focus will be needed.
READ MORE: Balbriggan: Car sought in handbag theft
"We need retailers that have the right offering for the people who are visiting the town centre," he explained.
Martina Hilliard has operated a 3 franchise phone shop on the Main Street since 2009, and has seen footfall increase 1,000pc. She feels that the makeover couldn't have come at a better time.
READ MORE: Malahide: Text alerts are reducing crime
"In November 2009, I picked a site here because I felt Swords was a cracking area," she said.
"I spent two weeks with a clip-board asking people why they came to the Main Street and a lot of it was because they wanted to shop local."