I propose to take Questions Nos. 434 and 437 together.
A wide range of property-based tax relief schemes was introduced up to the mid 2000’s including town renewal and living over the shop schemes. While many important developments were encouraged by these schemes, independent reviews concluded that the tax costs of the initiatives were high relative to the outputs achieved. The Department of Finance wound down previous schemes to take account of the current adverse economic climate and the legacy costs of such schemes to the Exchequer, as investors sought to use their reliefs and capital allowances. Similarly, the Urban and Village Renewal Programme 2000-2006, through which grant assistance was provided by my Department to local authorities for a range of interventions to upgrade the fabric of the built environment in cities, towns and villages, ended in early 2008. That scheme involved total EU and Exchequer co-financed expenditure of over €158m. The 2007-2013 Urban and Village Regeneration Programme, administered by my Department, was deferred due to budgetary constraints.
Nonetheless, my Department remains committed to working with local government and other community development and enterprise stakeholders to ensure that a recovering economy will result in an even distribution of opportunity. In this regard there is a need to target in an integrated way urban areas which face particular problems resulting from both the economic downturn and investments in the past which did not facilitate the development of sustainable communities capable of benefiting from the period of high prosperity or coping with the subsequent downturn. Major regeneration programmes in Ballymun and Limerick together with a range of other remedial works schemes across the country are being prioritised to assist in addressing this deficit.
In addition, I am also seeking to ensure that the forward planning process plays a part in supporting urban development. My Department recently published statutory guidelines for planning authorities on Development Contributions. These contain a strong focus on supporting vibrant town centres by directing planning authorities to put in place reduced rates of development contributions or waivers to support town centre development and to incentivise activity through lower development contributions in the areas prioritised for development in the relevant core strategy.