Thursday, 14 October 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Community Development Projects
9. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the schemes that are available for local groups to avail of funding to establish community centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49453/21]
I thank the Deputy for the question. My Department has a number of schemes that local groups can avail of to support the establishment of community centres. Funding may be available through the LEADER transitional programme, which is delivered through local action groups, LAGs, in each of the 28 LEADER subregional areas around the country. Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its implementing partner to discuss the eligibility of the project and the funding that may be available. The Department also provides small grants relevant to community centres through the CEP. The 2021 programme was launched on 10 May with funding of €4.5 million. It is currently closed but will reopen in due course. In addition, the €49 million community services programme supports more than 420 community organisations, including community centres, to provide local social, economic and environmental services through a social enterprise model. Funding is provided as a contribution towards the cost of employing staff in these organisations. The 2021 town and village renewal scheme is also relevant to community centres, as it will support the repurposing of existing community buildings in town centres to facilitate remote working and other projects to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use. Finally, a new capital fund for the upgrade of community centres was referenced recently in the NDP and funding has been secured for this under budget 2022. The details of this capital scheme are currently being developed within my Department. It will be launched in early 2022, with further details to be announced in due course.
I truly appreciate the Aire Stáit's response. It is quite appropriate because he and I represent constituencies that are not too dissimilar from each other, albeit at other ends of the capital. In a European context they are described as peri-urban, meaning they are largely suburban, with a bit of rural and a bit of urban. There are so many communities simply caught in the middle and many of the schemes he has laid out simply are not applicable to suburban towns like Ballinteer or my home town of Stepaside. Previously, under the LEADER programmes and others, great funding was provided for the more rural areas such as Glencullen and Kiltiernan under the former Minister, Deputy Ring. We are very grateful for that. No different to the Minister of State's constituency in Fingal, we are seeing significant levels of welcome residential development but that is no use unless it is accompanied by those community supports. Already in the constituency of Dublin Rathdown the community centres are simply full. There is nowhere for the active retirement groups or the smaller sports groups to go.
Will that be given consideration within the new capital plan?
I can certainly identify with the issues outlined by the Deputy. The CEP is probably one of the most relevant in terms of the need he outlined in terms of his constituency and recent grants provided.
Sandyford Community Centre recently was given a €4,500 grant for an energy efficiency upgrade. Kilcross Resource Centre received up to €5,000 for a replacement fire alarm system. Furry Hill Community Centre received €8,000 for the upgrade of building maintenance and repairs. Patrician Community Centre was allocated €10,000 for the installation of solar photovoltaics. I recognise the needs the Deputy has outlined, however. That is one of the reasons the new programme is in the NDP and why we secured a budget allocation for it.
I was glad the Minister of State referenced those four centres. I would describe them as one relatively large centre and three small centres. They are full. Sandyford Community Centre is directly across the road from the estate on which I live. Not only is it full for all the services provided but the services - the Montessori school, yoga class, active retirement group - are all full too. In fact, they have a massive waiting list. The biggest issue is that the car park is now full because it is between a national school and a number of shops.
The population of a constituency such as Dublin Rathdown, which is similar to the Minister of State's constituency, is going to explode, with approximately 5,000 homes being built over the next year or two. We are not talking about the distant future. We need to see large-scale investment. I appeal for foresight to consider not just at rural areas and towns and villages, but particularly suburban areas with massive housing states, which do not particularly have that central town identifier, and funding in that regard.
I commend the new fund the Minister of State talked about regarding community centres. This originated from my constituency in Hartstown and Huntstown, where there was a major concern about two community centres closing.
My concern, and I have not seen any of the detail, although the Government will publishing it soon, is with regard to whether this is for non-local authority owned community centres or if local authorities can use some of this funding for their own community centres. A significant concern for the likes of, say, Hartstown and Huntstown, which are not local authority-owned, is that some of that funding will be siphoned off into community centres that have substantial funding from their local authorities.
We do not have that detail yet but it will be forthcoming in due course. I acknowledge Deputy Richmond's points as well. I can certainly identify because we have the same issue in Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush and Lusk.
Regarding housing estates that are growing and coming on stream, there is a responsibility on local authorities in granting planning permissions to have community centres as part of a new development. That was not always done. It is improving in that regard but it is certainly a key responsibility in this area. It should not be down to us as a central Department to always fill the gaps left by planning permissions that were inadequate from day one. I certainly acknowledge the need that both Deputies have outlined, however.