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 Header Item CLÁR Programme (Continued)
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Post Office Closures

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring] I must be careful that other Departments do not see this as a mechanism to allow them not to do what they should be doing. Deputy Neville is correct: I need to get my Department to act. I have asked my officials to meet with other Departments. I am already aware that some Departments are telling groups to go to the Department of Rural and Community Development because it has the funding, even though they are the ones that have the direct funding. I do not want that situation to arise. I do not mind supplementing schemes. An issue that was raised on the previous Question Time and to which the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, referred a moment ago, is the wonderful job group water schemes do for rural communities. One of the difficulties is that a small number of people are involved and they must make a big contribution. I must examine how I can support them on foot of their contribution but what I do not want to see happening is the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment or local authorities increasing their charges and taking the money from my Department. This money must go into rural areas.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 40. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the status of allocations made to each county in 2018 under the town and village renewal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51677/18]

Deputy Peter Burke: Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke I want to ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of allocations made to each county in 2018 under the town and village renewal scheme and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The town and village renewal scheme is a key part of the Government's Action Plan for Rural Development. The plan contains more than 270 actions for delivery by Departments, State agencies and other organisations to help rural Ireland achieve its full economic and social potential.

The Government launched the town and village renewal scheme in 2016, with funding of €10 million to start the process of rejuvenating Ireland's rural towns and villages to make them more attractive places in which to live and work, and to increase their tourism potential. The scheme is part of a package of national and local support measures to revitalise rural towns and villages throughout Ireland.

The 2018 town and village renewal scheme was launched on 27 April last. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the local authorities. On 5 October, I announced funding of €21.3 million for 224 projects under the 2018 town and village renewal scheme.

Since the launch of the scheme in 2016, a total of €53 million has been allocated to more than 670 projects throughout Ireland. The projects cover a range of activities, from improving the public realm to making towns and villages more attractive for locals and visitors alike, and to job creation initiatives such as the development of enterprise hubs and digital hubs.

The full list of successful projects under the 2018 town and village renewal scheme, and earlier rounds, are available on my Department's website.

Deputy Peter Burke: Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke I acknowledge the Minister's work in terms of the various schemes targeted on rural areas. I note that in my constituency County Westmeath received in excess of €500,000 for the town and village enhancement schemes. Towns such as Multyfarnham, Castlepollard and Castletown Geoghegan benefitted from the funding for key infrastructural improvements. The Minister got a 27% increase in his budget for 2019, which was the biggest increase of any Department. That makes an important statement for rural areas that he was able to deliver that for his Department.

Numerous schemes are funded by the Department. A total of €1 billion is available for the rural infrastructure scheme in the next ten years. Mullingar has been a significant beneficiary of the urban regeneration scheme for category B projects. The scheme is worth €2 billion nationally over the next ten years. A number of the schemes are targeted on rural areas and they are a significant asset in terms of changing the discourse and showing there is a lot to talk about in rural areas.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I thank the Deputy for his comments. The town and village renewal scheme is probably one of the better schemes the Department administers. It is amazing what communities, towns and villages can do when they get a lift through a small allocation of funding. I was in Wicklow recently to visit a public realm project we had funded in the centre of the town. On foot of that, the HSE decided it would put in place a health centre and the council decided it would put in a library. All those projects gave the town a major lift. I see that happening all over the country where towns get a modest amount of money, local authorities match the funding and communities themselves support projects which give a lift to the area and the local people. It is good for the towns and for the community spirit. I visit a lot of towns and villages around the country and I see vibrant communities with a lot of people working on their behalf on a variety of initiatives.

Sometimes I hear negativity about rural areas and I wonder if the people making the comments see what is happening in some of the towns and villages and the employment that is being created. I see a bright future for rural areas. People have made a living out of knocking rural Ireland but I believe that the glass is half full and that many things are happening. Towns and villages around the country are improving.

Deputy Peter Burke: Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke I would be grateful if the Minister could outline his targets for the town and village renewal scheme in 2019. I acknowledge the great work that is being done. The Minister pointed out what is happening in rural areas. Over the next 20 years the population will increase by 1 million and 50% of the growth will be outside the five main cities in the country. Accordingly, there will be a significant need for infrastructural improvements in towns and villages and the Minister, Deputy Ring, is providing that. The facts speak for themselves. The population is growing in rural areas. Towns with a population of 1,500 have grown by 250,000 in the past 20 years. There are improvements in rural areas. Small schemes, such as the tidy towns schemes and agricultural shows, to major schemes, such as the urban and rural regeneration schemes, are key schemes that provide employment and infrastructure and make rural areas a positive place to live. Significant quality of life assurance is available in rural areas. It is great that the Minister got such an improvement in his budget this year and that he is providing key schemes to make a difference to people's lives.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring One of the worries people had about the €1 billion being allocated over ten years is that the existing departmental schemes would not continue. I assure Deputy Burke that the town and village renewal scheme, the CLÁR programme, the outdoor recreation scheme and all the other schemes will continue next year. I have funding in the Department's budget for all of them. Deputy Burke is correct that the schemes for urban and rural regeneration and all the other schemes and initiatives under the national planning framework up to 2040 will benefit rural areas and urban areas as well.

I like to use the example of Drumshanbo, which Deputy Martin Kenny will be familiar with. He saw what a small amount of funding for outdoor recreation did for the town. We put further funding into Leitrim village and Carrick-on-Shannon. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people used the walking facilities in Drumshanbo last year. The food hub and many other businesses developed on foot of that with many jobs being created. What I like about the town and village renewal scheme is that one can improve the public realm and provide a digital hub or a food hub or other type of development that will create employment.

Post Office Closures

 41. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring his plans to ensure the viability and sustainability of towns and villages in rural Ireland that have lost or are losing the local post office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51864/18]

Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward I want to ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to ensure the viability and sustainability of towns and villages in rural areas that have lost or are due to lose their local post office. It is not just a case of post offices. There has been a general decline in rural areas with the closure of public houses, post offices and Garda barracks. Rural Ireland is in decline and we need to revamp it as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, has policy responsibility for the postal sector. However, I am acutely aware of the value placed by rural communities on services such as the local post office.

Investment in rural Ireland is taking place right across Government. The Action Plan for Rural Development is a comprehensive cross-Government plan which sets out a wide range of measures focused on supporting and building sustainable communities, growing jobs and enterprise, improving access to services, maximising tourism, culture and heritage assets, and improving connectivity in rural areas.

The third progress report on the action plan was published in recent weeks and confirmed the progress being made, with more than 95% of actions completed or advanced.

The €1 billion investment provided through the rural regeneration and development fund will also bring positive benefits to rural communities. I was delighted to announce the first group, totalling 18 projects, to be supported by the fund last month.

My Department is also continuing to support the many vibrant towns and villages across rural Ireland through a range of other schemes and supports. The evidence of impact can be seen in growing opportunities for employment and improved quality of life across rural Ireland.

Of particular importance for those towns and villages most disadvantaged in terms of access to services are the CLÁR programme, the community enhancement programme, the town and village renewal scheme and the funding being provided to public libraries.


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