Thursday, 14 October 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
20. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the reason the shop front improvement scheme will not be extended despite the short timeframe and difficulties shopkeepers have had in carrying out works due to bad weather; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49846/21]
21. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will ring-fence funding for an improved shop front improvement scheme taking into account the difficulties experienced in 2021 by applicants working within a short timeframe and very limited time to complete works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49845/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 21 together.
The €7 million Streetscape Enhancement Initiative, which is a commitment in Our Rural Future, is designed to make around 120 of our rural towns and villages more attractive and welcoming places for locals and visitors alike. Property owners are being part funded to improve the facades of buildings, carry out artwork, and install features such as canopies and street furniture.
The initiative is being delivered by the Local Authorities on behalf of my Department, with considerable discretion provided to each Local Authority to design the scheme locally to meet their individual needs.
As the funding is being made available from savings elsewhere in my Department, Local Authorities had been advised that the projects must be completed and funding drawn down from my Department by mid-November. In practice, this has meant that many property owners are being asked to complete works before the end of this month in order for Local Authorities to meet this deadline.
Given the challenge this is presenting for some property owners, I am pleased to note that the deadline for the completion of works has been extended until 31st December 2021. In addition, more flexibility is being provided to each Local Authority to manage the completion of works locally and to subsequently report on the delivery of the scheme to my Department.
There has been a very positive response to this new initiative and I have no doubt that this funding will make a big impact on the appearance of our towns and villages. Any decision in respect of a further round of funding for streetscapes will be considered alongside other town and village investment priorities next year.