Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (127)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for the development of sporting and recreational facilities in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25822/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The programme for Government outlines a number of priority areas regarding the future provision of sports facilities to which I am fully committed to implementing.

I will continue to invest in sports facilities around the country through the national lottery and Exchequer funding, particularly at local level where clubs of all codes, run by volunteers, remain the backbone of Irish sport. The development of quality infrastructure is crucial to the development of sport. The sports capital programme is the primary vehicle through which the capital provision of sports facilities at all levels and of all types throughout the country are funded. Since 1998, almost €331 million has been allocated under the programme to more than 4,200 deserving projects in parishes, villages and towns all over the country. Details of the 2005 programme will be announced in due course.

The allocation of funding under the sports capital programme will continue to help build facilities, which will serve the needs of the sporting bodies both nationally and locally. Special priority is given under the sport capital programme to proposals for facilities in disadvantaged areas — in line with Government policy aimed at increasing participation in sport in these areas. In the four years to 2004, a total of €121 million was allocated to 1,266 projects in disadvantaged areas. My Department will continue to liaise closely with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to determine priority projects impacting on such areas.

I am committed to working with local authorities to provide at municipal level a range of public facilities such as swimming pools, gymnasia and synthetic floodlit playing pitches. Under the swimming pool programme, the development of pools for the future is done in a structured and focused way, concentrating on areas of greatest need, and enhancing upon the quality of those built in the 1970s and 1980s. Grants of up to a maximum of €3.8 million are available towards both the refurbishment of existing pools or the provision of a new pool, subject in both cases to the total grant not exceeding 80% of the eligible cost of the project or, in the case of projects located in designated disadvantaged areas, 90% of the eligible cost. Support is available towards the cost of the swimming pool, toddler pool, sauna and steam room.

Under present programme, my Department is committed to supporting 55 local authority swimming pool projects throughout the country. Delivery of this programme is well underway with a total €43 million paid out in the period 2000 to 2004 with 14 projects completed, eight under construction and the remaining 33 projects at various stages. Other municipal projects earmarked for Government support include the provision of gymnasia and synthetic floodlit playing pitches funded in part under my Department's sports capital programme.

The Government decision earlier this year to support the re-development of a 50,000 all-seated stadium at Lansdowne Road in association with the IRFU and FAI along with a sporting campus at Abbotstown is further progress towards bringing our national sporting infrastructure. The Department has been working with Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited to secure a developmental plan for a campus of sports facilities at Abbotstown. This work is now nearing completion and it is expected that proposals will be presented to me in late autumn, which will be basis for a Government decision on the future of the sports campus project.

The Government is committed to completing a national audit of local sports facilities and to putting in place a long-term strategic plan to ensure the development of such necessary facilities throughout the country. The first step towards developing such a strategy, a review of the existing sports capital programme under the Department's expenditure review programme, is being finalised. The outcome of this review will help identify the level of facilities that have been put in place in recent years with the assistance of national lottery funding and produce recommendations on priorities for future funding.

Following this it is my intention to establish an inter-agency steering group to commence work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. In addition to overseeing the commencement of the audit of sports facilities, this group will determine a framework for establishing priorities for future sports facility provision.