There are 35 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department’s behalf, to deliver the Leader elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. The project referred to received RDP funding, through Clare Local Development Company, of almost €150,000 under the Conservation and Upgrading of the Rural Heritage measure of the RDP during 2012 and the promoter now wishes to avail of further funding under the Programme but is prohibited due to State Aid/ “de minimis” rules.
I recently met briefly with the project promoters and outlined to them that in accordance with the State Aid rules/‘de minimis’ (Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1998/2006) the overall limit of ‘de minimis’ aid cannot exceed €200,000 over any three year period under the Conservation and Upgrading of the Rural Heritage measure of the RDP. The three year period is from the date of award of funding, and the ‘de minimis’ limit in this case will apply until the end of 2014. The rule applies to both the project and the promoter.
It is possible to seek a derogation in relation to the Conservation and Upgrading of the Rural Heritage measure. However, the Programme amendment process, as stipulated in the regulatory framework, is quite complex and can take some time to complete with no guarantee that the amendment submitted would be approved by the European Commission. As funding commitments under the current Programme are closing at the end of the 2013 there would not be enough time remaining to facilitate the programme change process for the current programming period. My Department will consider this issue when developing the framework for the Rural Development Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period.