Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Rural and Community Development

Rural Development Plan

Cathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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83. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the actions her Department is taking to stymie rural decline in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43813/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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My Department is finalising a new rural development policy for 2021-2025. The new policy will be forward-looking and ambitious and will build on the progress achieved through the Action plan for Rural Development which concluded in 2019. It will seek to strengthen and build resilience in our rural economies and communities nationwide including County Clare and will identify policy measures for delivery in order to achieve these objectives. As was the case with the Action Plan, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland.

Along with emphasising the interdependence between urban and rural areas, the new policy will recognise how strong rural communities and economies are vital to enhancing our national wellbeing and to realising a sustainable and inclusive recovery in which no one is left behind. This will be achieved through reversing decline in rural areas through targeted investment, incentives and innovation; unlocking the transformational potential of digitalisation and economic diversification; and supporting rural communities in the necessary transitions to achieve climate action targets in a just and equitable manner.

My Department's Community Services Programme(CSP) supports 11 community organisations in County Clare to provide local services through a social enterprise model. CSP funding of some €1.1m is provided as a fixed annual contribution to the cost of supporting 48 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions and 7 managers. As a result of COVID-19 my Department also developed a €4.75m Support Fund to assist CSP supported organisations most in need, to retain their CSP supported employees on their payroll and also provides assistance for the Employers PRSI contribution, during this crisis period and until April 2021. To date, ten of the CSP supported services in County Clare have been approved funding of some €130k under the CSP Support Fund.

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fundseeks to support large-scale, ambitious projects which can achieve sustainable economic and social development in rural areas.

Nine projects located in Clare have been approved for funding of €9.2m to deliver projects worth a total of €12.2m.

The projects completed with the assistance of the Fund will deliver significant impacts across the county, supporting sustainable communities, economic development and job creation for example the Ennistymon Digital Hub and Multi Service Centre.

This project was approved for funding of €1,024,000 under the first call under the Fund. The completed centre is designed to enhance job creation and retention and deliver community and family resource services within the community.

The third call for Category 1 applications closed in early December. This call will support ambitious strategic projects that have the capacity to assist rural areas to recover and prosper into the future. I look forward to announcing the successful projects in early 2021.

The Town and Village Renewal Schemeis one of a number of measures designed to rejuvenate rural towns and villages throughout Ireland under my Department's “Rural Development Investment Programme”. Projects funded under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme aim to make small rural towns and villages more attractive places in which to live, work and visit.

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme was launched in 2016 and since funding of €3.26 million has been approved for 40 projects in Co Clare. A wide variety of projects have been approved for funding in Co Clare including public realm works, digital, training and remote working hubs etc.

The Local Improvement Scheme,or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas which are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities.

Since the LIS was re-launched in 2017, over €58 million has been allocated to Local Authorities for improvements to qualifying roads under the scheme.

An allocation of €480,811 was made available for 2020 for the Local Improvement Scheme in County Clare. Since the scheme was re-launched in 2017, over €2.8 million has been allocated to County Clare under the Scheme.

The CLÁR programmeprovides funding for small scale projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. This year it included funding for Schools/Community Safety Measures andCommunity Recreation Areas. Co. Clare received funding of over €330,000 for 9 projects under CLÁR 2020. County Clare has received almost €1.7million in funding under the CLÁR programme since it’s re-launch in 2016.

My Department has continued to engage proactively with its stakeholders during the COVID-19 crisis through various on line means. This engagement has helped deliver solutions including additional funding to address challenges being faced by those in communities and their representative groups at this time, and I look forward to continuing these interactions moving forward.

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