“It’s a very exciting time,” Frank Curran says, having recently been appointed the new Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council.
“Wicklow has a population of 142,000 people. It’s close to Dublin. It’s close to the South-East where I’m from. It’s got huge potential; potential in terms of tourism, potential in terms of economic development.”
Mr Curran graduated from UCD in Civil Engineering and started his career 25 years ago in Waterford County Council. From Waterford originally, his career has seen him working for a number of councils including Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council, and most recently in Leitrim County Council where he held the position of Chief Executive for three and a half years.
Appointed on September 15th of this year, he sees Wicklow having many great possibilities: “It’s a very good location for businesses to come to because of the proximity to Dublin, because of the excellent infrastructure, excellent quality of life, access to universities, airports, ports, etc.”
At the moment, Mr Curran wishes to focus on housing, particularly social housing due to the current housing crisis. The Council currently plans to build 200 houses over the next 3 to 4 years.
Developing local towns and villages is another area Mr Curran is keenly interested in, and he says: “in all the towns, we have town teams and they’re looking at Public Realm in line with ourselves, they’re working with Tidy Towns groups, they’re looking at the whole retail offering and working with Retail Excellence Ireland. Town centres are important for Wicklow so that’s something we’re concentrating on.”
Another area the Council is focusing on is tourism as there are many beautiful places to visit such as Glendalough, Powerscourt, Wicklow Gaol and many others.
Mr Curran describes how a 42km ‘greenway’ (essentially a walking/cycling track) is to be built around Blessington Lake. The Council is also looking at a greenway from Arklow to Shillelagh and another from Wicklow to Greystones.
“Cycling and walking are big businesses now. We can get people in from abroad, people who’ll come down from Dublin for a weekend cycling and walking. These are opportunities for people who are involved in bike hire, who are involved in coffee shops, restaurants, etc.”
“Walking and cycling are something that we need to market because Wicklow is ideal.”
As Mr Curran has been Chief Executive for two months now, he feels it has been going well: “I’ve gotten a very good welcome from everybody; from elected members and Oireachtas members to councillors, from the staff here to the business community and communities in general.”
He’s been working in councils for 25 years, and with a laugh says he sees no signs of stopping. “Wicklow is the biggest local authority I’ve worked in, and as I say, it’s one with some fantastic potential.”
“It’s still early days, I’m still finding my feet. So far, I feel there’s an appetite to develop the county as much as we can, but it involves everyone working together.”