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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 251-252
 Header Item Local Improvement Scheme
 Header Item Departmental Strategies

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate

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Written Answers Nos. 251-252

Local Improvement Scheme

 251. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the reason the local improvement scheme for 2021 requires that one of the applicants is a farmer at a time when a smaller proportion of the rural population is engaged in farming and that many rural dwellers live on roads that have never been taken in charge by the local authority in their area; the reason if two or more landholders have land adjacent to an existing non-council road and there is at least one house on this section of road is not eligible for the scheme; the consultations she has had with local authority and members of Dáil Éireann in rural Ireland on this stipulation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2040/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas which are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities.  The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the relevant Local Authorities.

The scheme provides Exchequer funding for the construction or improvement of non-public roads which:

- Provide access to parcels of land of which two or more are owned or occupied by different persons engaged in separate agricultural activities; or 

- Provide access for harvesting purposes (including turf or seaweed) for two or more persons; or

- Provide access to at least one parcel of land owned or occupied by a person engaged in agricultural activities and which separately provides access for harvesting purposes (including turf or seaweed) for at least one other person.

In addition, works can also be carried out on Amenity Roads. Amenity Roads are non-public roads leading to important community amenities such as graveyards, beaches and piers. Such roads may not account for more than 25% of the allocation provided to each Local Authority.

The scheme is specifically provided for in legislation (section 81 of the Local Government Act 2001) and the stipulation with regard to parcels of land and harvesting activity is covered under that Act. The presence or otherwise of residential occupancy on a road does not affect the eligibility of the road once the other conditions are met.

The 2002 Department of Environment Memo which governed the Scheme was revised in 2020 following consultation with all of the Local Authorities.  It should be noted that the changes introduced on foot of the consultation are those of an administrative nature to make the provisions clearer, to clarify issues where concerns had arisen previously, or to confirm existing practice which may not have been explicitly referenced in the Department of Environment Memo.  

It should be noted that the 2002 Memo clearly stated that roads serving only houses or buildings occupied or used by persons not engaged in agriculture did not comply with the conditions of the Scheme.

Since the scheme was re-launched in 2017, over €58 million has been allocated to Local Authorities for improvements to over 2,300 qualifying roads under the scheme. This funding has made a significant difference to the access provided by these roads for over 10,000 beneficiaries.  

Recognising the value of the scheme for people living in rural areas, I secured an increase in the allocation for the Local Improvement Scheme in Budget 2021.  Funding for the scheme this year will increase by 5%, to €10.5 million. 

The conditions pertaining to the scheme are reviewed each year prior to the scheme being launched. The details of the 2021 LIS will be announced in the coming months when I formally launch the scheme. 

Departmental Strategies

 252. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan Information on Christopher O'Sullivan Zoom on Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the main policy initiatives undertaken by her Department since 27 June 2020; and her main priorities for 2021. [2091/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department's mission is to promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland.  In delivering on its mission my Department has sought to continue to deliver on its programme of policies and initiatives as planned throughout 2020, with additional consideration given to delivering supports to communities facing the emerging and ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will remain my focus for 2021.

During the past year, my Department has been developing a new Rural Development Policy, which is forward looking and ambitious, and reflects a whole-of-Government approach to supporting the economic, social and cultural development of rural Ireland over the period 2021-2025. The development of the policy is at an advanced stage, informed by an extensive consultation process with a wide range of stakeholders including Government Departments, State Agencies, rural stakeholder groups, young people and the wider public.

In addition, my Department held a series of further discussions with key stakeholders to explore the short and longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural communities and economies and to identify actions required to assist rural areas to recover from the impact of the pandemic. The insights and views captured through this extensive consultation process have helped to identify the issues that matter to people living and working in rural Ireland. The new Rural Development Policy is currently progressing through the final stages of approval and I hope to publish it in the coming weeks.

My Department is also supporting the work of Comhairle na Tuaithe (the Countryside Council) to develop a new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy. This Strategy will provide a vision and overarching framework for the development of outdoor recreation in Ireland over the coming years. The strategy is expected to be brought to Government during 2021. My Department is also undertaking a range of other initiatives to support the further development of the sector, including through a review of the Walks Scheme and the role played by Rural Recreation Officers in delivering outdoor recreation priorities at a local level. 

The revitalisation of rural town centres, and progressing measures to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages has also been prioritised. My Department is co-chairing a recently established Inter-Departmental Group to progress the Town Centre First approach committed to in the Programme for Government. The group will also review the suggested actions from the independent report of the pilot Town Centre First Initiative delivered by my Department.

My Department is also actively progressing a range of other policy initiatives in support of rural Ireland such as a review of the REDZ scheme and the CLÁR programme, including the designation of CLÁR areas.

In respect of community development, progress on the implementation of Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities: A five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland, will be a priority for 2021 and beyond, while my Department will continue to work with local authorities to support the implementation of the objectives and recommendations of the 2019 review of Local Community Development Committees. In addition, my Department has statutory responsibility to support the development of Local Economic and Community Plans (LECP) and will be prioritising this process in 2021.

The National Volunteering Strategy 2021-2025 was published in December 2020 and comprises high-level strategic objectives and associated actions to support volunteers and their representative organisations. It articulates the values and principles that will guide and shape Government’s support for volunteers and volunteering activity over the next five years. The implementation of the actions in the strategy will be a key priority for my Department in 2021.

The Charities (Amendment) Bill has been identified as key priority in the Programme for Government. It is my Department’s intention to progress this Bill in 2021 as a matter of urgency.

The development of a Government strategy for philanthropy is another key initiative of my Department. Consultants were appointed in 2020 to provide an overarching view of philanthropy in Ireland and of best practice in the EU. This research, to be submitted to my Department in early 2021, will assist development of a strategy on philanthropy in consultation with stakeholders during 2021.

Finally, my Department has continued to deliver the range of policy measures to support the development of social enterprises in Ireland outlined in the National Social Enterprise Policy. In 2021, this work will focus on building awareness of social enterprise through the development and implementation of an Awareness Strategy, and on improving data collection on the extent of social enterprise in Ireland. This year I plan to commission a census of social enterprise in Ireland that will address the information gap that exists.  A draft concept paper for conducting a census has been circulated to stakeholders.

In addition to the development and implementation of the above policy measures, further details of the delivery of our supports and programmes in rural Ireland and communities in 2020 will be provided in my Department's Annual Report, to be published later this year.

Last Updated: 24/05/2021 09:15:25 First Page Previous Page Page of 57 Next Page Last Page