Thursday, 11 July 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
6. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the 2019 CLÁR programme, the 2019 outdoor recreational infrastructural scheme and the walks scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30081/19]
The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of depopulation. I launched the 2019 CLÁR programme on 28 February last and applications were invited under three separate measures. Measure 1 provides support for school and community safely measures; measure 2 provides support for play areas and multi-use games areas; and measure 3 provides funding for community well-being support. The closing date for applications under the 2019 CLÁR programme was 30 April and almost 500 proposals were received by my Department. My officials are currently finalising the assessment of these applications and I hope to be in a position to announce successful projects shortly.
The outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme provides funding to develop new outdoor recreational infrastructure and to maintain, enhance and promote existing infrastructure. I launched the 2019 outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme on 29 March last and applications were invited under three separate measures, based on the scale of the projects. The closing date for applications was 31 May, and over 260 applications were received. These are now being assessed by my officials.
The walks scheme supports the development and maintenance of some of Ireland’s key walking trails. The scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 private landholders to maintain these trails. The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase the number of walks covered by the scheme, and funding for the scheme was doubled in budget 2019, from €2 million to €4 million.
In February this year, I invited expressions of interest for new trails to join the scheme. To date, 46 trails have been put forward by local development companies for consideration. I hope to be in a position to announce the first tranche of trails to be added to the scheme by the end of the summer. There is no closing date for the expressions of interest to be made to my Department under the walks scheme at this time. Interested groups should contact their local authority or local development company for further information if they have a trail that they want to have added to the scheme.
I thank the Minister. I welcome the outdoor recreation scheme. There has been added benefit in County Limerick from it. One walkway in which I was heavily involved was the Askeaton Slí na Sláinte. Approximately €120,000 was given to that last year, which was very welcome. The local authority said it will be developed and work will be happening there quite soon.
This may not come under his Department but I ask the Minister to use his influence being a rural Deputy on the issue of tertiary roads and low-cost safety junction improvements throughout the country. A programme needs to be set up on that. Every year there is a list of junctions in rural Ireland that need to be refurbished or made safe. Usually within a council electoral area, one will get two or three junctions done if one is lucky. A programme should be put together over three or four years so that we can deal with this. The people of rural Ireland will see the fruits of the economy coming back to alleviate or help in road safety. I ask the Minister to use his influence with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on that and to give me an update.
The only responsibility I have for roads is in respect of the local improvement scheme, LIS, which I have opened and for which I have provided funding again this year. At Cabinet level, I always promote and push for funding for tertiary roads. The Deputy is correct that it is an issue, and it is one we need to promote. I will talk to my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Ross. The LIS has worked well.
The Deputy will be doing a bit of walking down the road in the next fortnight. I hear the Deputy is getting married and I wish him well. I hope his road will be in very good shape that morning for the bride to be.
I thank the Minister for his reply and for his good wishes which have been well-noted. On the broader debate on rural Ireland and on an issue I have raised here before and which is one for all rural Deputies, some towns and villages are beginning to feel the fruits of the economy and are starting to grow. They need help to get to the next level and these are towns and villages that were left behind during the boom. I refer to the sewerage scheme debacle during the Celtic tiger where schemes were bundled and unbundle but which were never done. These schemes need to be put to the forefront and developed. That would give these small towns and villages a critical mass that would sustain a market for small indigenous businesses. If a number of these towns and villages had an expanded sewerage scheme, it will would help them to grow. That is the next step in the development of rural regeneration.
I agree with the Deputy. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and his Department is looking at some schemes. The Deputy is correct in that we need to develop sewerage and water schemes. Many small schemes throughout the country need to be extended and, in some cases, new schemes are required. These are small schemes. My officials and officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government have been talking about what we can do to provide some support. My Department does not have the resources and I do not mind if the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government plays some part in it. We can look at the CLÁR and other programmes assisting small communities but we need a scheme. The Deputy is correct that many towns and villages throughout the country are expanding and want a sewerage treatment plan and to extend the water scheme. To be fair, it is communities that are leading this and not local authorities or State agencies. They deserve a bit of support and a scheme. My colleagues and I are looking at that. In regard to the CLÁR programme, I am looking at different ways to see what I can do to assist rural areas.