Written answers

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Department of Rural and Community Development

Rural Schemes

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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94. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if consideration will be given to expanding the successfully introduced town centre first plans scheme, enabling towns and villages to map out their future development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45183/22]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Town Centre First Policy is a major cross-government policy that aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres, making them a better place to live, work and visit. The policy is an important deliverable under Our Rural Future, the Government's Rural Development Policy for the period to 2025.

A key step in delivering the Town Centre First Policy is the establishment of the National Implementation Office to ensure the delivery and implementation of the policy. The office is responsible for supporting Town Regeneration Officers in driving implementation of the policy and will also produce an Annual Implementation Plan that monitors progress and delivery. They will also be responsible for making sure that the initial 26 Town Centre First masterplans are delivered in a consistent manner ensuring best practice.

In addition to ensuring the first 26 Town Centre First plans are completed by June 2023, the Town Recreation Officers will also be responsible for identifying the next tranche of towns to develop Town Centre First masterplans. I would expect this next set of masterplans to be progressed in 2023.

Local authorities have begun appointing these Town Recreation Officers who will drive the development of Town Centre First Plans at local level across the country. The first of these officers have already taken up their roles, and it is expected that all Town Recreation Officers will be in place in the coming months.

I am committed to ensuring that the continued roll out of the Town Centre First policy will work to deliver on the goal of revitalising rural towns and villages as set out in Our Rural Future.

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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95. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she intends to review the local action group structure in the LEADER Programme; and if so, the criteria that she proposes to use for same. [45173/22]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The new CAP Strategic Plan, which includes the LEADER programme, was recently approved by the EU Commission.

The details of the delivery model for the new LEADER programme are based on extensive consultation with stakeholders in relation to all aspects of the programme including the LAG structure.

The process of selecting a LEADER group for the new programme will be open, transparent and competitive. Central to the formation of the Group will be a clear partnership approach, with public and private interest groups coming together to deliver the programme.

Groups who wish to apply to implement LEADER will also be required to clearly demonstrate strategic direction and coherence with existing EU, regional and national rural development policies such as Local Economic and Community Plans, as well as demonstrating their connection to communities and the bottom up approach, and the financial capacity to deliver the programme to a high governance standard.

The open selection process for this round of LEADER does not prescribe a delivery model and it is open to any group to apply to become a LEADER group once they can satisfy the core elements of the selection process.

The new LEADER programme will also continue to align LEADER sub regional areas to county boundaries. However, important flexibility will be provided to eligible groups that wish to submit a Local Development Strategy that covers all or part of the sub-regional area or that would cover part of multiple sub-regional areas.

This overall approach has been developed to ensure both coherence with the principles of the LEADER model and conformity with the relevant EU regulations.

I expect to be in a position to announce the commencement of a two stage selection process for the new LEADER programme in the coming weeks, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with stakeholder to ensure we can build on the success of the LEADER programme over the last 30 years.


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