Thursday, 15 July 2021
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
The past year has highlighted the significance of community facilities. Playgrounds are important for children as spaces for physical activity, development and socialisation. However, too many towns and villages do not have playgrounds. To be fair, most do, even if they are the bare minimum. However, most prominently in west Cork, Bandon, with a population of almost 7,000 and which is the most populated town in what is quite a large constituency, does not have a playground. What funding does the Minister's Department have in place to build playgrounds?
I thank Deputy Cairns for raising this issue. As she said, playgrounds are an important resource with positive impacts for communities. Funding provided by the community enhancement programme provides small grants to community groups to enhance facilities, including playgrounds, in disadvantaged areas. Funding is allocated by my Department to each local authority area, and the local community development committee, with support from their local authority, administers the funding in that area. In 2021, total funding of €4.5 million is available, with €156,299 of this allocated to the Cork County Council area, for example.
Additionally, funding for playgrounds may be available through the €70 million LEADER transitional programme, which I launched earlier this year. This funding supports locally-led projects, which focus on delivering on the key themes of Our Rural Future, the Government's ambitious plan for rural Ireland, such as building capacity and empowering local communities, supporting remote working, developing our outdoor amenities and creating jobs in rural areas. The LEADER programme is delivered through local action groups, LAGs, in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country.
Finally, the CLÁR programme, with an allocation of €5.5 million in funding in 2021, provides funding for small-scale projects in designated rural areas. Measure 2 of the 2021 CLÁR programme supports outdoor community recreation facilities, including the enhancement of existing, and-or the development of, new accessible outdoor community recreation facilities, including playgrounds, skateboard parks and multi-use games areas, MUGAs. The closing date for receipt of applications for 2021 has now passed. The assessment of the applications received is ongoing and I expect to make an announcement on the approved projects in the coming weeks.
I thank the Minister for her response and for outlining her support for playgrounds and other community facilities. I highlighted the case of Bandon due to the clear need for a playground there. It is thanks to massive work from volunteers that there is a plan for a fantastic inclusive space for children, including a sensory garden. The land has been donated by Cork Marts and the community has already raised an incredible €60,000, which includes money raised by a group of girls who ran a bake sale recently, money tins being distributed to all housing estates and local businesses making donations.
However, we all know they should not have to raise the money. They should have a playground and, given they do not, there should be an easily accessible fund for this vital infrastructure. They are working with me, other public representatives and the council to ensure the necessary funding to make this playground a reality. They have been looking for this funding going back to when I was on the council but it just has not materialised. As I said, Bandon is a big town with many children in it. When the applications come through the Department and the Minister is making that announcement, the people of Bandon would really appreciate her support.
The Deputy is right in stating that Bandon is a fine town and it should have good playground facilities. However, in many cases, applications have not been put in. That is often a problem as we must get quality applications. All of them are assessed when they come in. I do not know the specific reason Bandon has not received funding but there are many different sources of funding it should be looking for, such as the CLÁR programme. I am not too sure if Bandon is in a CLÁR area or not, but that programme is available and has funded numerous playgrounds for schools in the community. The funding available for that is up to €50,000. Many projects in Cork have benefited from the CLÁR programme. The community enhancement programme, through which small grants are distributed by local authorities, gives funding to upgrade equipment and, possibly, buy new equipment. It is a very useful fund. If people want to fund green spaces and family amenities in the town, we have also supported playgrounds through the town and village fund.
The people of Bandon and I also do not know why they have not received funding yet. As I said, they are very dedicated to acquiring the site by themselves and have raised €60,000 so I agree it does not make sense. A few weeks ago, I ran a consultation project with national schools throughout Cork South West, including those in Bandon, regarding the county development plan. Every school highlighted the need for more facilities for young people, with playgrounds being one of the most valued amenities. In addition to Bandon, Belgooly and other villages need playgrounds and places like Clonakilty need extensions to their facilities to cater for the growing population.
Playgrounds are too often overlooked when it comes to important infrastructure for children, young people and parents. I encourage the Minister to bring a particular focus to these facilities in her consideration of the funding mechanisms. The recent rural development policy refers to a lack of tailored amenities for younger children. I appeal to the Minister specifically to ensure that playgrounds are funded as part of this approach.
I do not have specific information on the area the Deputy raised. Many playgrounds have been funded, however. I have had the pleasure to visit many of them and I have seen the benefits they bring to schools and communities. In addition to the funding that is provided through my Department, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, launched the summer of play initiative. The initiative will roll out grants, information resources and other supports over the summer months to early learning and childcare centres to improve their outdoor spaces for play, as well as funding local authorities to improve parks and playgrounds. Let's Play Ireland 2021 resources are available at gov.ie/letsplayireland. The initial announcement of the summer of play initiative included €6 million in funding for outdoor play areas and parks. This will support more families to get outside with their children. I encourage the group in question to apply for that source of funding, which is, I believe, open. Several streams are available and people should engage. I am happy to engage with Deputy Cairns on it.