Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme
15. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme applications for funding assistance for walking infrastructure in County Kerry and nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44129/20]
I want to ask the Minister about the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme, especially her plans for County Kerry. This is a fantastic scheme. I referenced it earlier regarding the cumulative effect of these injections of funding in rural areas. In particular, I want to ask the Minister about projects such as the Dingle Way, which is a very important economic lifeline in County Kerry. What are the Minister's plans for funding this project? There is also the centenary walk in Ballykissane near Killorglin, which will be a beautiful loop walk and something very worthy of funding. There are many other projects in the Iveragh area. Will the Minister update us on when we can expect to hear about such applications?
I thank the Deputy. The outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme supports the development of outdoor recreational infrastructure. It provides vital funding for walking trails, cycleways, blueways and mountain access routes. The Deputy has all of these wonderful amenities in his county and we want to support them. He is absolutely committed to making sure they get the maximum support from the Department.
Since the funding began in 2016, €52 million has been allocated to 747 projects. Measure 1 is for small-scale projects with funding up to €20,000, measure 2 is for medium-scale projects with funding up to €200,000, and measure 3 is for big projects with funding of up to €500,000. The closing date for receipt of applications under measure 1 was 30 September 2020. My Department received 193 applications seeking funding of €3.6 million. The assessment of these applications is nearly complete and I expect to make an announcement on the approved projects shortly.
The closing date for measure 2 and measure 3 projects was 30 November. The review and assessment of these applications will be completed early in the new year. I can confirm that Kerry County Council, South Kerry Development Partnership, and North and East Kerry Development have each submitted applications under the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme for 2020. These will be assessed in line with the scheme criteria along with all the other applications received.
In recognition of the contribution this scheme is making to building vital communities and tourists alike, I was pleased to secure a 20% increase in funding for the scheme next year to €12 million.
I know the Deputy has a keen interest in these projects. Examples of projects funded in Kerry in the previous years, to which he was absolutely committed and supported fully, were large-scale repair works to the Dingle Way, access to Torc Mountain, the upper Strickeen trail, the Killeen wood upgrade and Kerry Way promotion. I am sure the Deputy will be able to tell me the benefits these have brought to his county. Since Covid, more people want to get out and enjoy the wonderful countryside we have. We want to help them. We also want to support and improve the facilities we offer.
The Minister has nailed it. In the post-Covid world this scheme will be more important than ever. I am very heartened to see there is an increase in funding. I urge the Minister to do everything she can to try to assist as many projects as possible. There is an element of loaves and fishes for her when she has so many applications and only a limited amount of resources. It is money very well spent that gives a return to the Exchequer and communities. It also helps to maintain Ireland and various locations around the country on the international tourism map. It gives back so much to the communities. I thank the Minister again and we look forward to the announcements.
I thank the Deputy. There is always a big demand for support and funding to help these projects go ahead. Sometimes there is disappointment because we cannot fund every project. Often, when we have gone back to the project promoters and local authorities and said that perhaps we can improve it somewhat, I have seen cases where those projects were refused once but were able to make changes and were much better projects and delivered much better outcomes. Kerry has a good record in sending in good applications. What is more, I know the Deputy will not let me forget about the importance of these projects, their outcomes and what they will deliver for the people of Kerry. I thank the Deputy for raising the issue.