The Action Plan for Rural Development included a commitment to develop a pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages. I launched this initiative last October and announced that six towns had been invited to participate in the initial pilot. The 6 towns which were included 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 each is being made available to these towns to develop proposals to encourage town centre living. To date, €75,000 has been drawn down by each Local Authority involved. This funding is being used by the Local Authorities to engage with communities and local businesses to identify practical solutions to increase the number of people living in their town centres.
Representatives from each of the participating towns meet collectively on a regular basis to discuss the issues that are emerging from their work on the pilot initiative. It is envisaged that the lessons learned through this pilot can help to inform the approach to supporting and investing in rural towns and villages in the future and lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.