Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Questions (10)

Niamh Smyth


10. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the next round of CLÁR funding will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3002/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Rural)

When will the next round of CLÁR funding be announced and will the Minister make a statement on the matter?

CLÁR has been very successful since I reintroduced it in 2016, following a number of years during which it was closed to new applications. Under the programme funding is provided for small-scale projects in rural areas which have experienced significant levels of depopulation. While the amounts available to fund projects under CLÁR are relatively modest, the impact of that funding is significant. I have visited many projects and seen at first hand the difference they make to local communities. Funding of €25 million has been approved under CLÁR to provide for 1,200 projects since 2016. They have included the provision of safety measures around schools and community facilities, the construction of play areas, support for emergency first responders and a measure to provide vehicles to transport people to cancer care and respite centres. I intend to launch a further call for proposals under CLÁR this year and will make decisions shortly on the specific measures to be supported in 2019. I anticipate that the programme will be opened to new applications in the first quarter of the year.

I agree that CLÁR funding makes a significant difference, in particular in rural communities. I have seen the brilliant and positive influence it has had in the provision of playgrounds, first responders and many community events. I have received a great deal of feedback on the impact on local primary schools of traffic calming measures, in particular. I have raised with the Minister the application of Killinkere national school for CLÁR funding for traffic calming measures. It is a rural school in a thriving community, in which well over 100 pupils are being taught by a significant number of teachers. The principal and parents' association are very anxious that traffic calming measures be introduced. There are few sources of funding available to small primary schools, but the CLÁR programme has been used to make provision for measures such as this. Will the Minister outline whether traffic calming measures will be included in his next announcement and when might it be made?

CLÁR is a programme under which we have some flexibility which we use. Deputy Calleary was, however, correct in the issue he raised earlier. I do not want to start to take on matters which it is the role of other Departments to address. I had to do that in respect of the local improvement scheme when other Departments would not take on the role, with the result that no scheme was in place for many years. Deputy Smyth will know how important that scheme is to County Cavan and rural areas in general. She is correct that if there is one good scheme, it is CLÁR. While it is small money, a great job is done. I will look at the issue raised by the Deputy in that context. I am looking at new schemes to support rural communities that cannot draw down funding from other Departments which are not coming forward to support them. In particular, I have no difficulty in supporting the provision of child safety measures at schools. To be fair to the Deputy, she has acknowledged that the CLÁR programme has worked well. We have done a great deal of very good work on school safety, including providing warning signs that there is a school ahead. I am sure we have saved many lives nationally as a result. I will be opening the scheme again shortly and considering ways to improve CLÁR. However, I do not want to find myself taking on the work of other Departments as the minute one starts to do so, the funding will be drawn away. I need to sit down and work with other Departments also.

That is welcome. I agree with the Minister that LIS funding should come from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. If it did, there would be more money for the Minister to give to rural communities which is what he is all about. Killinkere national school is very curtailed in what it can do and there are many schools in the same position across the country. For instance, the car park is actually located across the road from it and there is no safe drop-off point. The principal and school management do their best to ensure the school is as safe as possible, but the car park is still located across the road and tremendous worry, angst and frustration have been experienced in the community for many years. Therefore, I ask the Minister to be mindful of the need for flexibility in that regard in any further announcement he will make on CLÁR funding. Funding for projects such as this is not easy to attain for small primary schools in the countryside. The Minister's role is making countryside communities and rural areas thrive. CLÁR funding has had a great influence in that regard. However, I make the case again for Killinkere national school. It has applied unsuccessfully for CLÁR funding before, but the parents' association, board of management, staff and management are anxious to access it now to make their school a safer place.

I ask the Deputy to send on the details of the case and I will get the Department to see why the school was unsuccessful in applying previously. Under the scheme support is provided for schools in the provision of community safety measures. When it comes to safety measures, there is some flexibility. As such, I ask the Deputy to send on the details and I will have a look at them. The other area at which I looked last year was the provision of support for mobility and cancer care transport services. I found that it was a major problem in rural Ireland and that the resulting scheme worked very well. Many patients had not been able to get to their cancer care appointments and the HSE had reneged in the provision of funding to support them. Voluntary groups had taken up the call, but they were finding it very difficult to source funding for their buses to bring patients to and from cancer treatment appointments. It was one of the schemes I introduced last year and I continue to look at ways and means to introduce schemes to help to provide a benefit for communities in rural Ireland. That is what it is all about. As such, the Deputy might send on the details of the individual case and I will have a look at them.