The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund seeks to support ambitious and strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. The Government has committed €1 billion over 10 years to the Fund and €315 million is allocated to the Fund for the period 2019-2022.
€52 million was allocated to the Fund for 2019.
Following the conclusion of the first call under the Fund in February 2019, a total of 84 successful projects had been announced, with funding of €86m provided from the Fund to support projects worth a total of €117m.
Significant progress is already being made on the implementation of the successful projects. A number of the projects have already reached their first milestone and had funding released. To date, a total of €23.1 million has been invoiced for draw down from the Fund by 55 separate projects. This is made up of €19.3 million for 33 Category 1 projects and €3.8 million for 22 Category 2 projects. I expect that payments from the Fund will continue to accelerate over the coming weeks and months.
Notwithstanding this progress, due to the requirement for due diligence and the time it takes for projects of the size supported by the Fund to carry out procurement and get fully up and running, it is clear that savings will materialise in this sub-head this year.
In that regard, I am pleased that demand under the LEADER programme has ramped up significantly this year and, while I initially allocated €30 million to the LEADER programme, expenditure is over €40 million. Given this strong performance, I have already allocated an additional €10 million to this programme and will allocate further funding to cater for the increased demand. In addition, I also intend to allocate additional funding to meet commitments in Local Improvement Schemes and National Rural Development Schemes. This funding will be re-allocated from the savings to be realised under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund sub-head this year.
My Department is closely monitoring the ongoing drawdowns from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and is working closely with the lead parties for the projects to ensure that funding is released without delay. In tandem with this process, my Department is also actively managing end-of-year expenditure under its other rural and community capital programmes. Any savings emerging within our overall budget will be used to benefit other demands, as appropriate.
Finally, it should also be noted that the second call for Category 1 applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed on 6th August 2019. There was an excellent response from across the country and my Department received 69 applications for funding. I announced the successful projects from the second call on the 6th November 2019. 26 projects were approved for funding of €62 million to support projects costing €95 million.
Following the announcement of the successful projects from the second call, my Department is engaging with each lead party to complete due diligence requirements and complete contractual arrangements.