Tuesday, 31 May 2022
Department of Rural and Community Development
Flexible Work Practices
53. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the way she is supporting local authorities to bring vacant properties in town centres back into use as remote working hubs. [27671/22]
Our Rural Future, the Government's rural development policy for 2021-2025 places a clear emphasis on the transformative effect that remote working can have for rural communities. It also prioritises the revitalisation of rural towns and villages and recognises the importance of addressing the issue of vacant buildings in this regard.
A key deliverable under Our Rural Future was the publication earlier this year of Town Centre First - A Policy Approach for Irish Towns. This represents a whole of Government policy which aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres.
My Department operates a number of schemes which directly support the development of remote working hubs in towns and villages across rural Ireland. To date, some €100m has been invested to this end under schemes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
For example, in February of this year I announced funding of €18.5m to successful projects under the 2021 Town and Village Renewal Scheme. This included a range of remote working projects such as the development of the dilapidated convent building in Doon, Co. Limerick and the old Bank of Ireland building in Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny as hub facilities.
I have recently launched the 2022 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, which will again include an opportunity for the funding of projects that repurpose vacant buildings as remote working hubs. This year I have included a new Building Acquisition Measure as part of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme to support local authorities to purchase vacant and derelict buildings in 2022 for future development as community facilities, including remote working.
It is also important that existing remote working hubs are supported, and in this regard I launched the €5m 2022 Connected Hubs Call earlier this year. This funding will provide capital support to add capacity and improve the quality of existing hubs. This will help to ensure that such facilities can continue to provide high quality services in towns across rural Ireland.
I am committed to ensuring that the development of remote working hubs can continue to make a real impact in addressing issues of building vacancy and town regeneration across rural Ireland.