Innovative e-town concept aims to improve work/life balance

A new live/work housing project in Kerry aims to give people a better balance between their life and their work.

The €3m Tarbert e-town project, a Shannon Development initiative, was launched by RTÉ's Mícheal Ó Muircheartaigh on Monday 12 April. Speaking at the launch, Vincent Cunnane, the chief executive of Shannon Development, said the project can help communities by "offering employment and rejuvenating community life" and provides entrepreneurs with a "stress free work and living environment". The Tarbert e-town follows on from a similar development in Miltown Malbay in Co. Clare.

The e-town comprises eight houses with work units attached or separate from the living quarters. Each unit is broadband enabled, enabling residents to work easily from home. Joan Murphy, chairperson of the Tarbert Development Association, welcomed the development calling it a "major boost" for the town.

The e-towns concept is the first of its kind in Ireland. Similar systems have been used in countries such as the UK, where the Live Work Network organisation provides information on live/work developments across all sectors. 

"There is an old saying that necessity is the mother of invention, meaning that to every problem there is a solution and this is in fact how the idea of E-Towns was born," said a spokesperson for Shannon Development. "We invented the E-Town concept as a way of bringing economic activity back into local communities and providing people with.. better work-life balance."

The government have signalled their commitment to innovation recently, and the aim of the e-towns is to spread entrepreneurship and innovation to small towns and rural areas such as Tarbert. Indeed, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation has committed their support to the Shannon Development initiatives.

However, Shannon Development admit that interest in the e-town developments has been affected by the slowdown in the economy. Only one of the twelve units in Miltown Malbay has been purchased, with declarations of interest made for another three. However, Shannon Development believe this is only a temporary setback. "E-Towns developments are long term investments in local communities," said the company to Politico. "We are confident that once the market begins to pick up they will realise their potential."

Indeed, Shannon Development are so confidential in the potential of this project that there are already plans afoot for another e-town in the Shannon region. With government support, the concept may soon take root countrywide.

More information on Shannon Development's e-towns projects can be found here.