Written Answers. - National Development Plan.

Michael Ring


311 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government the funding which has been allocated to the BMW region from the national development plan to date; his plans in relation to the delivery of a more balanced regional development; and his proposals to deliver more to the western region. [17085/03]

One of the objectives of the national development plan is the fostering of balanced regional development. In so far as my Department is concerned, this involves the implementation under the economic and social infrastructure operational programme and the two regional operational programmes of measures including social housing, water and waste water services, waste management, urban and village development, habitat protection and conservation and heritage conservation. Expenditure on these measures in the BMW region from the commencement of the national development plan in January 2000 to end 2002 amounted to €1.88 billion.

The economic and social infrastructure operational programme, in which provision for social housing and water services is included, provides for an integrated package of investments in national infrastructure to meet infrastructural deficits that need to be overcome if Ireland's recent economic and social progress is to be maintained.

I am satisfied that the BMW region has benefited from the investment to date under both of the operational programmes. Expenditure for the provision of water infrastructure in the BMW region was 6.5% ahead of projection at the end of 2002. The water services investment programme for 2002-04, which was launched in April 2002, includes water infrastructure projects in the BMW region with a value of some €1.45 billion, including €375 million for projects new to the programme at that stage. Expenditure on housing, at just under €825 million, was 14% ahead of projection at the end of 2002 in the BMW region.

Recognising the important role played by non-national roads in the BMW region's economic and social life, and the predominantly rural character of the region, over €505 million has been spent on these roads from January 2000 to the end of 2002. The overall provision under the national development plan for non-national roads in the BMW region is over €1.07 billion. The particular development needs of the BMW region continue to be addressed by the Government's commitment, in its programme of June 2002, to continue with the programme of investment in non-national roads up to 2005 and to follow this with a further significant improvement programme.
I have made allocations amounting to over €22 million under the waste management capital grants scheme. This is a national scheme which is provided for in the regional operational programmes and which is managed by the regional assemblies. Applications from local authorities for assistance under this scheme are evaluated on the basis of their potential contribution to the provisions of the relevant county-regional waste management plan.
Expenditure in the period January 2000 to end 2002 on urban and village renewal in the BMW region has amounted to €10.2 million. A further €4.7 million has been provided for projects in 2003. The aim of this measure is to provide financial support for a range of interventions to upgrade cities, towns and villages to make them more attractive places in which to live and work, to encourage social and economic development and to facilitate and support the development of tourism and tourism-related activities.
In the BMW region, a sum of €3.8 million has been allocated under the habitat protection and conservation measure for the development of a visitor centre for Ballycroy National Park in County Mayo. A site for the centre has been purchased and the project has been brought to an advanced stage by a working group representative of my Department, the Office of Public Works, Mayo County Council and local community development and tourism interests. Under the heritage protection measure, work has commenced on a total of nine sites in the BMW region, with conservation, access or presentation improvements completed on seven.
Overall, I am satisfied that the level of investment under the measures outlined above will continue to contribute to the development of the BMW region. I look forward to the outcome of the mid-term review of the national development programme, which is expected in the latter part of this year and which will provide an independent analysis of progress, including progress in relation to balanced regional development, and make appropriate recommendations for programme adjustments where necessary.