In the present COVID environment the supports provided by my Department to assist communities are more important than ever to assist the economic and social recovery of these areas.
Below is a list of the primary funding streams available to rural communities from my Department.
The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund was established as part of Project Ireland 2040 and will support a coherent suite of capital investment schemes so that rural towns (with populations of less than 10,000), rural villages and outlying areas can benefit from investment over the coming years. The four headings funded through the Rural Regeneration and Development allocation are (i) RRDF major projects (ii) RRDF Seed Funding (iii) Town and Village Renewal and (iv) the Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Scheme.
RRDF Major Projects (Category 1) supports ambitious and strategic projects that can drive sustainable rural regeneration and development. Funding is awarded through a competitive assessment process. All projects must be collaborative, involving more than one body, and with clear community support and engagement. Grants awarded have been in the range of €0.5 million to €10 million, enabling large scale investment with long term benefits for rural economies and communities.
RRDF Seed Funding (Category 2) generally provides smaller grant funding to enable the development of project proposals suitable for future applications to the RRDF Major Projects strand. Funding can be provided towards the cost of project development, including for technical or expert assistance. Issues that may need to be addressed could include land ownership/title, planning and design work, value for money assessment, and procurement. This funding aims to ensure that early stage project ideas generated at local level can progress into fully developed and costed proposals.
The Town and Village Renewal Scheme covers a range of projects to support and rejuvenate rural towns and villages. It is administered by Local Authorities on behalf of my Department and projects are developed in consultation with town/village community and business interests.
Funding can be provided for a wide range of interventions including public-realm projects, town centre enhancements, encouraging town centre living, and economic development projects. Applications for funding are submitted to DRCD by local authorities. The scheme has an annual budget of €15m, with €25m available in 2020 due to an additional €10m from the July Stimulus Package.
LEADER Programme: Under the LEADER Programme, €250 million in grant aid is available to rural communities and businesses. This is provided to projects focused on economic and enterprise development, job creation, social inclusion and supporting the rural environment. Funding is allocated to 28 sub-regional areas based on administrative or county boundaries. Interested parties should contact their Local Action Group (LAG) through its Implementing Partner to discuss the eligibility of the project and the funding that may be available. A full list of LAGs is available on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c33028-list-of-local-action-groups/
The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) provides funding for the development of new and existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas such as cycleways, walking trails, blueways and mountain access routes.
Other Rural Supports:
The Community Enhancement Programme provides small capital grants to community groups to enhance facilities in disadvantaged areas. The CEP is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), with support from the local authorities.
The Local Improvement Scheme provides funding for improvements to private and non-publicly maintained roads. Such roads can lead to multiple residences, farmland or amenities like lakes, rivers or beaches.
CLÁR is an investment programme for small-scale infrastructural projects in depopulated rural areas. CLÁR supports the development of identified areas by attracting people to live and work there .
The Community Services Programme provides local social, economic and environmental services through a social enterprise model, providing a contribution towards the cost of staff in these organisations. It meets local service gaps and provides services and facilities that would not be available otherwise. The Expression of Interest (EOI) application process is currently closed but it is expected that the Programme will open targeted calls to address identified gaps in service delivery in 2021.
My Department has also provided funding for Tidy Towns groups and Agricultural Shows in recent years.
All programmes delivered by my Department are open to applications from eligible parties during the relevant application timeframes set for each programme. Public Participation Networks and Local Community Development Committees are useful first ports of call for community groups interested in accessing community development funding. It is anticipated that these funding streams and supports will continue and will be available in 2021 and full details of how to register or apply for financial assistance under these programmes can be obtained on my Department's website [www.gov.ie/drcd] together with more detailed information on all programmes delivered by my Department.