I launched the pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages last October, and announced that six towns had been invited to participate in the initial pilot.
The primary objective of the scheme is to encourage people to return to living in town centres. This is part of a wider range of measures being taken across Government to revitalise towns and villages and address the issue of vacant premises. The scheme is being led locally by the relevant Local Authorities, in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, and is overseen by my Department.
The 6 towns which were identified for inclusion in the pilot are:
1. Boyle, Co. Roscommon
2. Callan, Co. Kilkenny
3. Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo
4. Banagher, Co. Offaly
5. Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
6. Cappoquin, Co. Waterford
Funding of up to €100,000 is being made available to each of these towns to develop proposals to encourage town centre living. This funding is being used by the Local Authorities to engage with communities and local businesses, and identify practical solutions to increase the number of people living in their town centres. It is envisaged that the solutions identified could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in due course.
The lessons learnt through this pilot initiative can help to inform our approach to supporting and investing in rural towns and villages in the future. I have received interim progress reports from each of the relevant Local Authorities involved in the Pilot Scheme. It is anticipated that a comprehensive final report will be produced towards the end of the year and I will make decisions regarding the publication of that report and the further roll-out of the scheme in due course.