Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (25)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

25. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of rural regeneration and development funding applications approved and payment has issued in regard to same in counties Cavan and Monaghan to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30074/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The first call for applications to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed in September 2019. Following the conclusion of the first call to the Fund in February 2019, a total of 84 successful projects had been announced, with funding of €86m provided from the Fund. This funding supported a total investment of €117m by these projects in rural areas.

Of the 84 successful projects, 3 are located in County Cavan and 4 in County Monaghan. Total funding of €4.9 million was approved for the seven projects, €3.9m in Monaghan and €1m in Cavan.

Following the announcement of the successful projects, my Department engaged with each lead party to complete due diligence requirements. Contractual arrangements were also drawn up with the release of funding based on the achievement of key milestones in the projects. To date, one of the 7 projects in Cavan and Monaghan, Cootehill Industrial Park in Cavan, has reached its first milestone and has drawn down €254,922 from the Fund.

I am satisfied that significant progress is already being made on the implementation of successful projects, in Cavan, Monaghan and elsewhere. To date, a total of €1,722,043 has been drawn down from the Fund. I expect that payments from the Fund will significantly accelerate over the coming weeks and months as further milestones are achieved across all the 84 projects.

Departmental Strategies

Questions (26)

Pat Deering

Question:

26. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans for the development of a national strategy to support the community and voluntary sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30085/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department is currently finalising a five-year strategy to support the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. The strategy addresses the need for an implementation plan for the 2016 Framework Policy for Local and Community Development in Ireland, as well as the Programme for a Partnership Government commitment to develop a strategy to support the Community and Voluntary sector.

The draft strategy has been co-produced with the Community and Voluntary sector, local government and relevant Government Departments. It describes a long-term vision for our communities and sets out a direction of travel for Government policy in relation to community development, local development and the broader Community and Voluntary sector.

The strategy will comprise high-level strategic objectives with associated actions to support communities and the community organisations that work with and support them. My Department will lead on its implementation, working collaboratively with relevant Government Departments, State agencies and Community and Voluntary stakeholders.

Development of the strategy was supported by a Cross-Sectoral Group on Local and Community Development and I intend to reconvene and expand this group to support implementation, monitoring and review. There will be periodic progress reports provided to the relevant Cabinet Sub-Committee and a formal mid-term review will also be carried out.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (27)

Dara Calleary

Question:

27. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the drawdown in funding to date of the town and village renewal scheme since established. [30429/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is a key initiative under the Action Plan for Rural Development and forms part of a range of measures to support rural Ireland under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 Rural Regeneration Programme.

I launched the 2019 Town and Village Renewal Scheme on 16th April last. Local Authorities were invited to submit up to 12 applications to my Department for consideration under the scheme. The closing date for receipt of applications was 28th June. My officials are currently assessing all of the applications received and decisions on the applications will be made when the assessment process is completed.

Since the Town and Village Renewal Scheme was established in 2016, almost €53 million in funding has been approved for more than 670 projects across the country. As of the 8th July 2019, a total €28.105 million has been drawndown by Local Authorities for approved projects.

Mountain Access Schemes

Questions (28)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

28. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress made by his Department and predecessor Departments in relation to the promotion of mountain climbing and the mountain access scheme since 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30076/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The promotion of mountain climbing as an activity is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and other bodies such as Fáilte Ireland. However, my Department is very involved in the promotion of access to the countryside for recreational purposes. In that regard Comhairle Na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) was established in February 2004 as a non-statutory body with a primary focus on the priority areas of access to the countryside, developing a countryside code, and developing a countryside recreation strategy.

Under a Comhairle na Tuaithe initiative, in 2011, a Mountain Access Scheme to facilitate access to the uplands for hill walking and similar activities was developed in two pilot areas; one at Mount Gable in Connemara and the other in the MacGillycuddy Reeks in Co Kerry.

In order to help progress the Mountain Access Scheme, SLR Consultants with the support of the former Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, South Kerry Development Partnership and Fáilte Ireland, were tasked with assessing the potential for structured permissive access to the MacGillycuddy Reeks uplands and to identify the most appropriate management structure to ensure the sustainable management of the integral environmental and cultural heritage of the Reeks, while providing long term clarity on permissive recreational access to the mountains. I understand that the SLR report also suggested a set of Key Performance Indicators covering issues such as management, revenue, training & education, enterprise and communication.

On foot of the recommendations in the SLR report, a Management Forum, whose job it was to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the report, was established in the Kerry pilot area in 2014.

Comhairle na Tuaithe also established a Mountain Access Project Steering Group in 2014, which was tasked with reviewing progress in respect of the Mountain Access Pilots, developing signage for Mountain Access Pilot areas, and issues around a National Indemnity Scheme. During this time, tendering took place for the design of a mountain access logo, and mountain access signage and information panels for the two pilot areas, which are now in place.

On 6th June last, at its first meeting of 2019, I presented a new mandate to Comhairle na Tuaithe which will reinforce and strengthen its advisory role in relation to the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland. At this meeting, I also announced the appointment of Dr. Liam Twomey as the new Chair of Comhairle.

I have also asked Comhairle to identify opportunities to develop rural enterprises based on outdoor recreation activity, and to consider the scope for the development of a new National Strategy for Outdoor Recreation, taking account of recent developments and investments across the sector.

Also, as the Deputy will be aware, my Department has been working to develop a National Indemnity Scheme to indemnify private land owners, particularly in Mountain Access Scheme areas, with regard to the use of their lands for recreational purposes which when in place will further facilitate access to the countryside for recreational purposes, including mountain climbing.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (29)

James Browne

Question:

29. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the position regarding streamlining the criteria required for small grant applications, for example, LEADER; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30078/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department operates a number of schemes that can provide small-scale financial supports and grants to community groups and organisations.

These include the Community Enhancement Programme and the CLÁR Programme. The application processes for these programmes are reviewed before each call for applications is issued to ensure they are user friendly and fit for purpose.

Following a review of the criteria for the CLÁR Programme, my Department initiated a process for the 2019 programme whereby local authorities further assist communities by verifying information for applicants and ensuring that all required permissions, match-funding, etc., are in place so applications fulfil all the scheme requirements.

The Community Enhancement Programme is the result of a review of the Communities Facilities Scheme and RAPID programme and provides a more flexible, streamlined and targeted approach to providing small scale infrastructure funding of a regenerative nature to enhance facilities in disadvantaged communities.

My Department also offers information sessions and workshops for communities and groups on its funding programmes and schemes. This is done to help applicants understand the schemes, criteria which apply and with completing the application process.

I am acutely aware of the issues faced by some communities who wish to apply for funding, but are hampered in completing application forms in a satisfactory manner due to capacity issues.

To assist communities a series of regional ‘Rural Opportunity' information sessions were hosted by my Department recently to raise awareness of the wide variety of funding supports available to rural communities from across Government Departments. Staff from my Department and a number of other Departments and agencies were also on hand at the events to provide further information to attendees on the range of supports available.

My Department also recently ran a series of 'Helping Hands' workshops designed to make groups more aware of grant programmes, and to provide guidance on how to make an application. The events were aimed at community groups that have had no success, or limited success, previously and aim to provide hints and tips on how to make a better application and how to identify local supports that community groups can draw upon.

The LEADER programme, which comes under the remit of my Department, is delivered through Local Action Groups (LAGs) in each of the 28 sub-regional areas. I am committed to making the application process for LEADER as efficient as possible for all applicants.

My Department engages regularly with the Local Action Groups (LAGs) that deliver LEADER to identify potential areas for programme improvement. Following a forum held with the LAGs in May 2017, I have implemented a series of 31 improvements to streamline the LEADER programme. I will continue to closely monitor the implementation of the LEADER Programme to ensure the process is as streamlined as possible while being mindful of the EU Regulations governing the Programme.

I believe these efforts will see any administrative barriers that may exist reduced in order that our funding has the broadest possible reach and that all eligible groups have the opportunity to access available supports.

In addition, my Department is committed to keeping under review the administration of all our funding programmes and schemes to ensure they remain fit for purpose, targeted, can be accessed by those who need the supports most and are delivering benefits for communities across the country. I welcome feedback on our programmes and schemes from communities so we can continue to do this.

LEADER Programmes Expenditure

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 7.

Questions (30)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

30. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount spent on LEADER funding in 2019 in counties Cavan and Monaghan. [30073/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The LEADER Programme is delivered in each County by the approved Local Action Groups.

The Cavan Local Action Group has approved 56 projects with a combined value of €3,171,877, since the beginning of the programme, from their core project budget. In addition, a further 13 applications seeking total funding in excess of €800,000 are at various stages of the approvals process.

In 2019, over €650,000 has been paid to project promoters in County Cavan, while over €130,000 has been paid in respect of the administration costs of the LAG including their engagement with potential promoters to bring forward applications.

The Monaghan Local Action Group has approved 41 projects with a combined value of €2,420,542, since the beginning of the programme, from their core project budget. In addition, a further 9 applications seeking total funding in excess of €1.1 million are at various stages of the approvals process.

In 2019, in excess of €447,000 has been paid to project promoters in County Monaghan, while over €170,000 has been paid in respect of the administration costs of the LAG, including their engagement with potential promoters to bring forward applications.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 7.

Rural Broadband Scheme

Questions (32)

Dara Calleary

Question:

32. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the discussions he has had with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment with regard to broadband provision in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30428/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

As Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, I work across both the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I also chair the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce which was established in 2016 to identify and overcome obstacles to mobile phone and broadband services. The Taskforce is a cross-Government initiative comprising senior officials from a number of Departments and State bodies.

I am keenly aware of the importance of access to high-speed, high-quality broadband services in rural areas and I engage regularly with my Ministerial colleagues in both Departments in finding ways to remove barriers to the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has overall policy responsibility for the National Broadband Plan. However, the Department of Rural and Community Development works closely with that Department and with Local Authorities to help prepare rural communities for the roll out of high-speed broadband.

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, which is co-ordinated by officials of the two Departments, has successfully addressed a number of complex issues over the last three years, many of which will facilitate the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan when the contract for the State Intervention Area is signed. Quarterly Progress Reports on the work of the Taskforce are published on the websites of both Departments, and on the Gov.ie portal.

The Department of Rural and Community Development also supports preparations for the roll out of the National Broadband Plan through the network of Broadband Officers located in each Local Authority. The Broadband Officers are co-funded by the Department and provide a vital point of contact for industry and the public regarding telecoms issues.

The Broadband Officers are also leading on the development of Digital Strategies for each Local Authority. These Digital Strategies will enable communities to make full use of digital technology in their daily lives, and will be particularly beneficial when the Broadband Plan is rolled out.

Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme

Questions (33)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

33. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his Department is involved with an interdepartmental taskforce to ensure that lower income urban areas grappling with serious issues of antisocial behaviour and crime will have adequate resources from crime prevention initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30071/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department does not sit on any interdepartmental taskforce in relation to crime prevention initiatives to deal with antisocial behaviour and crime in lower income urban areas and has no direct involvement in crime prevention initiatives.

My Department's mission is to support viable, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland. While the Department's role is not specifically related to antisocial behaviour and crime, its Community Development programmes have a role in tackling social exclusion and addressing deprivation in all communities, both urban and rural.

SICAP 2018 to 2022 has a funding allocation nationally of €38 million in 2019 and will provide some €190 million over the five year period of the Programme. SICAP supports disadvantaged communities and individuals including unemployed people, people living in deprived areas, people with disabilities, single parent families, people on a low income, members of the Traveller and Roma community and other disadvantaged groups.

There is also €4.5m in funding for the Community Enhancement Programme this year, providing funding towards grants for Community Groups across Ireland. The allocation of funding is weighted towards those communities in most need.

I have also provided ring-fenced supports for particular areas of urban deprivation including, for example, €6.5m for initiatives in Dublin's North East Inner City, an area suffering extreme deprivation.

All of these measures play a role in making our communities better places to live in.

Action Plan for Rural Development Implementation

Questions (34)

Peter Burke

Question:

34. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the consultations taking place with stakeholders for the next phase of rural policy post-2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30079/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Government's Action Plan for Rural Development was published in January 2017 as a three-year plan to support the economic and social development of rural Ireland. The Action Plan runs to the end of 2019, and my Department has now commenced work on developing the next phase of rural policy, from 2020 onwards.

As part of this process, my Department held a series of consultation events throughout the country to obtain the views of stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities facing rural Ireland over the next five years.

Eight events have taken place, in Cavan, Donegal Town, Carlow, Thurles, the Aran Islands, Claremorris, Ennis, and Tralee.

The events which have taken place to date have been well attended by a wide range of stakeholders including local communities, State Agencies, local government, and central Government Departments. All of the contributions from these events will assist my Department in developing the next phase of policy for rural Ireland.

The new policy will build on the Action Plan for Rural Development. It will be forward-looking, and will seek to strengthen and build resilience in rural economies and communities. As is the case with the current Action Plan, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland.

My objective is to publish the policy at the start of 2020.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (35)

Pat Deering

Question:

35. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to help those communities in need of assistance towards formulating proposals for funding under various programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30086/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department operates a number of schemes that provides small-scale financial grants and supports to community groups and organisations, these include the Community Enhancement Programme and the CLÁR Programme. The application processes for these programmes are reviewed before each call for applications to ensure they are user friendly and fit for purpose.

I know that there are some groups or community organisations that may not have considered seeking funding because they don’t have the experience of submitting funding applications or lack understanding of the criteria in place. To help these groups, my Department held a series of six 'Helping Hands' events nationwide earlier this year, to make groups more aware of funding programmes, and to provide practical guidance on making applications. These events provided hints and tips on how to make a better funding application and how to identify local supports that community groups can draw upon.

The response to these events has been overwhelmingly positive and my hope is that individuals and communities will be encouraged to take their own ideas or projects forward. These events and other ongoing measures will ensure that our funding has the broadest possible reach and that all eligible groups have the opportunity to access available supports.

Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme

Questions (36)

Dara Calleary

Question:

36. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the drawdown in funding to date of the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme for the allocations in 2017 and 2018. [30427/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) provides funding for the development of new outdoor recreational infrastructure and for the maintenance and promotion of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural Ireland.

The following table outlines the amounts allocated and drawn down to date under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) 2017 and 2018. Measure 2 of the 2017 scheme was announced and allocated in January 2018, as reflected in the table below. Measure 2 of the 2018 scheme was announced in January 2019 and is therefore not included in the following table.

Year

Allocation

Drawdown to Date

Percentage Paid to Date

2017

M1 & M3

€9,385,416.00

€5,108,437.25

54%

2018

M1 & M3

€9,961,525.56

€875,666.13

9%

M2 2017 (announced Feb 2018)

€2,124,279.79

€1,466,471.60

69%

TOTAL

€21,471,221.35

€7,450,574.99

35%

LEADER Programmes Data

Questions (37)

Dara Calleary

Question:

37. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount spent to date under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme by project and administration costs; the amount expended to date on project costs by each LAG; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30425/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a total budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020. €220 million of this funding has been allocated to the Local Action Groups (LAGs) to cover the costs of delivering their LEADER Local Development Strategies. The remaining €30 million is available for thematic schemes to be funded outside of the core budget allocated to each LAG.

Total expenditure on the LEADER programme since it commenced is in excess of €54 million. This includes:

- €1.5 million for the cost of developing the LAG strategies (preparatory support)

- €28 million for expenditure incurred by the LAGs in administering the programme and supporting the project development process (administration & animation costs);

- €24.8 million for individual LEADER projects funded through the core budget available to each LAG.

There has been a significant increase in project approvals since the start of 2018, with over 2,100 projects approved to a value of €75.8 million from the LAGs' core budget. Project payments, in particular, will increase significantly as these projects are completed and submit payment claims

Table 1 below provides a breakdown of the project payments made to date by each Local Action Group.

The figures provided do not include payments made under the thematic schemes funded outside of the core budget allocated to each LAG.

Total LEADER Project payments by LAG as at 8 th July 2019

Local Action Group

Project Payments

Name

Value

Carlow

€1,146,666

Cavan

€1,050,138

Clare

€858,357

Cork North

€733,003

Cork South

€323,496

Cork West

€250,656

Donegal

€2,989,845

Dublin Rural

€554,880

Galway East

€160,677

Galway West

€227,665

Kerry

€1,742,039

Kildare

€211,422

Kilkenny

€788,707

Laois

€767,771

Leitrim

€461,622

Limerick

€1,472,572

Longford

€448,966

Louth

€574,640

Mayo

€1,143,999

Meath

€288,898

Monaghan

€779,385

Offaly

€1,377,419

Roscommon

€546,829

Sligo

€1,070,124

Tipperary

€1,021,837

Waterford

€1,805,619

Westmeath

€402,401

Wexford

€1,100,344

Wicklow

€460,650

Total

€24,760,629

Local Improvement Scheme Funding

Questions (38)

Martin Kenny

Question:

38. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to allocate more funding to the local improvement scheme. [30220/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities.

As the Deputy may be aware, there was no dedicated funding for this scheme for a number of years due to constraints on public expenditure. However, I was very conscious of the underlying demand for the scheme in rural areas throughout the country.

I reintroduced the LIS in September 2017 and allocated a total of €17.5 million to Local Authorities for LIS roads in 2017. In 2018, I allocated over €20 million for LIS roads in two phases, the second of which is currently being completed.

On 7th February last I launched the 2019 Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) and allocated a sum of €10 million to Local Authorities under the scheme. The number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works in 2019 is a matter for the relevant Local Authority. Funding allocations, on a county by county basis, can be found on the Gov.ie website at the following link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/d309ea-local-improvement-scheme/.

It is clear that there is a continuing demand for LIS funding in rural communities across Ireland. I will be closely monitoring the scheme over the coming months and will make decisions regarding any further funding in due course.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (39)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

39. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the reports of each of the six relevant local authorities in relation to the town and village pilot residential occupancy scheme will be published; when the pilot scheme will be completed; his plans to roll the scheme out nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30439/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

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.