Thursday, 5 December 2019

Questions (14)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

14. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the interim progress reports of each of the six relevant local authorities in respect of the town and village pilot residential occupancy scheme will be published; when the final report will be published; the progress of the scheme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50639/19]

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Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Rural)

When will the interim reports regarding the six relevant local authorities involved in the very important town and village pilot residential occupancy scheme be published? I have previously raised this very important pilot project with the Minister. We need to learn from it and roll it out. What is its status?

The pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages was launched in October 2018. Funding of up to €100,000 is being made available to each of the six towns involved in the pilot to assist them in developing innovative proposals to encourage town centre living. It is intended that the lessons learned through the pilot will help to inform the future approach to support for and investment in rural towns and villages. It is envisaged that the pilot could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the rural regeneration and development fund.

Representatives from each of the participating towns have met collectively on a regular basis to discuss the issues emerging from their work on the scheme. This included a workshop hosted by my Department in September which was also attended by experts on the topic.

In June of this year, I received an interim progress report from each of the local authorities involved in the pilot scheme. It was not intended that these reports would be published as they were preliminary in nature and part of an ongoing process. A further and more comprehensive report on the issues identified through the pilot, as well as suggested courses of action, is being prepared for my Department. I expect to receive a draft of the report later this month. Once I have considered it, I intend to make the final report available for publication in the new year.

The Deputy may wish to note that officials from my Department and the local authorities involved in the pilot discussed progress on the initiative with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development at its meeting on 13 November. The transcript of the meeting will provide an indication of the progress being made by the various towns in the pilot.

I thank the Minister for the update. I welcome that a final report will be published in the new year. I ask the Minister to confirm that will be done. This is a very important project. I was concerned that County Galway had been completely ignored by the project, but the Minister explained it is a pilot project which will be considered further. This is an urgent matter, as the Minister, who is even more familiar than I am with many of the towns in question, is aware. In a previous question, I referred to the villages of Kilmaine and Shrule. Many other towns and villages throughout Galway, such as Carraroe or Carna, as well as the islands, could benefit from this project. It is vital that the report is published, we learn from it and we roll it out.

It will be published in the new year. Galway was not ignored. I picked six towns, but I could have picked 60. They are Boyle, Callan, Ballinrobe, Banagher, Castleblayney and Cappoquin. I tried to spread it around the country. The most important thing is that the report is being done. We want to see what it will contain and then I will have to go to the Government with regard to its recommendations. These people have met and they appeared before the committee. I am looking forward to seeing the report, and I will publish it. I want to publish any reports we have produced, whatever they contain. This report is not ready yet but will be ready early in the new year.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.