Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (425)

Tom Fleming

Question:

436 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding an appeal in relation to a rural development leader funding application for a feasibility study to develop a recreational facility for County Kerry in respect of a club (details supplied) that has been rejected by the eligibility review group in the rural development division of his Department on the grounds that it is located in a hub town; if he will take into consideration the significance of this project and the fact that 80% of the Special Olympic athletes are from outside the hub area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34473/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

For the purposes of implementing Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme 2007-13 (RDP), the following areas are excluded:

The City Council boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick.

The Borough Council boundaries of Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford.

The Town Council boundaries of Athlone, Ballina, Castlebar, Cavan, Dundalk, Ennis, Killarney, Letterkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Mullingar, Tralee, Tuam and Tullamore.

During negotiations in respect of the RDP, the European Commission indicated that the OECD definition of rural areas should be used to define the rural areas that would be covered by the Programme. The OECD defines rural areas as those with a population density of less than 150 persons per square kilometre. However, it was considered, in the Irish context, that a more appropriate course of action would be to remove the urban areas defined as hubs and gateways in the National Spatial Strategy from coverage under the Programme.

The use of this definition, rather than a population density calculation, ensures that Axes 3 and 4 RDP funding is available to a more significant number of rural areas, which would otherwise not receive funding under the Programme. This approach was adopted following detailed negotiations with the European Commission and is the best possible outcome in relation to Programme coverage. The positive impact on rural areas outweighs any potential loss in hubs and gateways and, in overall terms, the level of investment resulting from the RDP is a significant boost to the country as a whole.

In very exceptional circumstances, and with the prior written approval of the Department projects may be eligible in hub towns, where the service is being delivered to the rural population in their homes/area. Furthermore, such projects are only allowed where it is not feasible or technically possible to provide the service in the rural area. One of the aims of the RDP is to encourage the development of such facilities in the areas covered by the Programme. In the case of this project, no rationale or evidence was provided that supported the determination that it was not feasible or technically possible to situate the facility in an area covered by the RDP.