Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ceisteanna (40, 46)

Dara Calleary


40. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of applications made under the rural regeneration and development fund to date per category; the number of applications granted funding per category; the funding approved for the scheme in 2019; the number and value of payments made to date for approved projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22891/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Carey


46. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the rural regeneration development fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22725/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Rural)

I will not burst the Minister's bubble but I refer to the rural regeneration and development fund. The Minister and Deputy Michael Collins had an interaction, rather than a discussion, on this earlier. The reality is that only 38 of 280 applications were deemed successful for project funding. The Minister has a concept of a project being shovel ready, and I welcome that, but is the Department's understanding of shovel ready different from that of local authorities? There is some sort of difficulty in the application process. The number of projects that are unsuccessful is incredibly high.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 46 together.

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 ten years to the fund and €315 million is allocated to the fund for the period 2019-2022.

The first call for applications for the fund closed at the end of September. There were 280 applications submitted to the first call. Some 126 applications related to category 1, shovel ready projects, and 154 related to category 2 projects, those which needed development funding to become potential category 1 applications in future calls for applications.

In November 2018, I announced the first set of 18 successful category 1 projects. These 18 projects received €24.4 million in funding and have an overall value of €34.6 million. In February, I announced another 20 successful category 1 projects and 46 category 2 projects. These 66 projects will received €62 million in funding and have a total project value of €83 million. Overall, the first call from the rural regeneration and development fund will provide €86 million in support for projects worth €117 million.

In order to ensure the prompt delivery of these important large scale projects, my Department has drawn up contractual obligations for successful applicants with funding based on the achievement of key milestones in the projects. In that regard, while there has been no drawdown from the fund to date as expected I am pleased that a number of the projects are approaching the completion of their first key milestone.

I launched the second call for applications to the fund in April 2019. This current call is open to category 1, shovel ready applications only, and the closing date is 12 noon on Tuesday, 6 August. A further call for category 2 applications will follow in October. Information on requirements of the second call are on the website and information sessions to assist potential applicants will be held by my Department.

The Minister indicated that €24.4 million in expenditure was approved but when does he expect this to be drawn down? What is the timeline in the Department for that money to be drawn down? Like many funds in his Department, there are many announcements but they are not matched by the drawdown and the expenditure does not seem to match the hype. Is the Minister monitoring the scheme for potential blockages? I do not want this scheme to end up like LEADER whereby there is inconsistency in areas throughout the country and a huge amount of money is left unspent as the programme comes to an end. This scheme has the potential to be very successful.

Is there a difficulty with local authorities providing matching funding? Are local authorities shovel ready in terms of the money they have to put into this scheme?

I call Deputy Carey on the same matter.

The fund has been a great success in County Clare. We benefited from €7.5 million in the previous round. For example, great work is being done in Lahinch in advance of the Irish Open. Money from this fund is being used to upgrade the public realm and make it more attractive. Lahinch Seaworld is also receiving a massive injection of funds.

It is important to outline the changes that will be made in the next round. It will limit the number of applications that can be made to three per local authority or development group. There should also be an emphasis on upgrading town and village centres. They are dying and they need investment. An emphasis needs to be placed on them in order to make them more attractive.

I thank the Deputies. In response to Deputy Calleary, contractual agreements are entered into in respect of these schemes and timeframes are set out. The latter include milestones for when funding can be drawn down in the major schemes. I hope that no local authority made an application without having matching funding ready. Under the contracts, the work must be done. These are contractual deals so local authorities must honour what they are doing. Deputy Calleary asked what is meant by shovel ready. Shovel ready is when it is ready to proceed.

Ready to turn the sod.

I have dealt with some local authorities which had led council members to believe that projects were shovel ready when they were not. Anything that was shovel ready was considered.

Deputy Carey is quite correct that this is a great scheme. The funding is €1 billion over ten years and €315 million between 2019 and 2022. This scheme is going to work. These are major projects and schemes. I travel all over the country and I see the enthusiasm of people who are developing these fantastic schemes, including food and digital hubs. There will be lots of jobs and employment. Members can go to Athenry and Cork. There are fantastic schemes everywhere.

We were told again it would not happen and there would be no funding. The funding is there and it is happening.