Seanad debates

Friday, 6 November 2020

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Local Improvement Scheme

9:30 am

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising this important scheme. We are all familiar with the scheme in our constituencies. I am responding to this matter on behalf of the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Heather Humphreys, as she is unable to attend.

As the Senator rightly said, the local improvement scheme is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas that are not under the normal maintenance of the local authorities. The scheme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and is administered through the local authorities.

The statutory basis for the LIS is set out in section 81 of the Local Government Act 2001. Since the LIS was relaunched in its own right in 2017, which we all welcomed at the time, more than €58 million has been allocated to local authorities for improvements work on approximately 2,350 roads. The scheme is important to many people in rural areas as these roads provide access to agricultural lands, homes and amenities such as graveyards and beaches.

The Department of Rural and Community Development provides an allocation of funding each year to the local authorities for work on LIS roads. The selection of roads to be funded under the scheme is then a matter for each local authority based on the priority or condition of particular small private or non-public roads in their county. The local authority may rely on existing lists of eligible roads and-or advertise for new applicant roads.

As outlined in the legislation, eligible road projects are those that provide access to parcels of land involving two or more persons engaged in separate agricultural or harvesting activities, including turf or seaweed. Applicants should provide documentation to verify that they are engaged in agricultural or harvesting activities on the parcel of land. This can be a herd or flock number, documents from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or any other equivalent documentation. The onus is on the individual applicants to submit to their local authority the required documentation in support of their eligibility.

As the Senator will be aware, individual applicants make a contribution towards the roads project. This can vary from 10% to 15% depending on how many beneficiaries are on the particular road. This contribution was capped at €1,200 for 2020 but the majority of beneficiary contributions were well below the figure. Works can also be carried out on amenity roads, which are non-public roads that lead to important community amenities such as graveyards, beaches, piers, mountain access points and other tourism or heritage sites.

To get to the nub of the Senator's question, an allocation of €10 million was made available for 2020 for the LIS. I understand that most works under the scheme have now been completed. The Minister expects a full drawdown of the 2020 allocation by year-end and that 345 roads will have had works completed.

Recognising the value of the scheme for people living in rural Ireland, the Minister is pleased to note that there will be an increase in the allocation for the LIS in budget 2021. Funding for the scheme next year will increase by 5% to €10.5 million. The distribution of this funding to each of the relevant local authorities will be announced early next year when the scheme is formally launched by my colleague.


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