Thursday, 14 October 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
31. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she is satisfied with the uptake of the rural regeneration scheme; the number of the schemes that have been completed; and when she expects to have the next round of the rural regeneration scheme. [50031/21]
The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund provides funding for the development and construction of capital projects in towns and villages and rural areas across Ireland.
Calls for applications to the Fund are sought under two categories – Category 1 and Category 2. Category 1 relates to large scale ambitious capital projects with all necessary planning and other consents in place and which are ready to proceed. Category 2 provides smaller grant funding to enable the development of project proposals suitable for future calls for Category 1 applications
Three calls for Category 1 and 2 applications have been undertaken so far. To date, 164 projects have been approved for funding of €252m for projects costing over €343m.
In April this year, I announced funding of €81 million for 25 landmark projects costing almost €100 million from the third call for Category 1 applications.
The third call for Category 2 applications closed on the 30thJuly 2021. My Department received 53 applications to this call. The application process for the Fund is competitive in nature. Applications are currently being assessed by my Department under the oversight of the Project Advisory Board, comprised of representatives from key Government Departments and independent experts. Once that process is complete, my Department will prepare a report setting out recommended projects and my role as Minister will be to consider that report and make final decisions in relation to the allocation of funding. I expect to announce the successful projects before the end of 2021.
I expect to announce the fourth call for Category 1 applications in the coming weeks.
32. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the promised €2 million scheme to fund the development of town masterplans; the details of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50136/21]
A pilot scheme on supporting Town Centre Living, funded by my Department, sought to explore how to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages and how to address the issue of vacant properties
An independent report on the pilot, published last year, highlighted the value of developing a shared vision or masterplan for individual towns. This was as part of the process to counteract vacancy and dereliction, and to make these town centres more attractive places in which to live. The importance of such plans is also being emphasised in discussions on the Town Centre First approach.
An additional €2 million has been allocated, as part of the expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme, to underpin the preparation of such masterplans and to guide the strategic development of rural towns and villages.
I anticipate that individual masterplans will include actions tailored to address the vacancy and town centre living issues specific to the towns in question. These will be developed in collaboration between the local government sector, local community organisations, business interests, residents, and other stakeholders.
The approach to delivering these plans has been discussed with the local government sector and is being informed by, and aligned with, the outcome of the forthcoming Town Centre First Policy. The details of the €2 million funding package is currently being finalised in line with the finalisation of the Town Centre First Policy.
33. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the measures being taken to ensure that Leader funding will be maintained at the current level as part of Ireland’s Common Agriculture Policy Strategic Plan. [50157/21]
The LEADER programme is a key intervention implemented by my Department which will help to underpin the Government's rural development goals as outlined in Our Rural Future.
The programme is co-funded by the EU under Pillar II the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is Ireland's Managing Authority for the CAP and thus has lead responsibility for negotiations of the new CAP which is to be introduced from 2023. My officials are engaging extensively with DAFM on the new LEADER programme, including the funding element, to form part of the new CAP Strategic Plan .
It is important to me to maintain a significant level of funding for the LEADER Programme, to ensure it can continue to deliver for rural Ireland. In this regard, I secured an additional €70 million in funding for a Transitional LEADER Programme, which will cover the period to the end of 2022 to ensure that there was no gap between the end of the current Programme and start of the next one.
The allocations of funding across all the new CAP schemes are currently being finalised, and my Department is in ongoing communication with DAFM in relation to this process. It is expected that indicative scheme allocations, including for the next LEADER Programme, will be announced shortly and will form the basis for the next stage of stakeholder consultation.