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.