Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has outlined a package of supports of over €150 million designed to transform rural towns, villages and communities throughout 2022.
Hosting a webinar entitled ‘Government Supports for Thriving Rural Areas and Vibrant Communities’, Minister Humphreys detailed the various funding streams within her Department that will revitalise town centres, combat dereliction, promote remote working and enhance our communities.
The event was attended by over 300 stakeholders such as community groups, town teams, development associations and local chambers.
During the webinar, Minister Humphreys announced the introduction of a new Community Centres Investment Fund 2022.
This new capital Fund will invest €15 million in the upgrade and refurbishment of community buildings across the country so that thousands of people of all ages can benefit. Under the Fund groups and organisations based in both rural and urban communities can apply for grants ranging from €10,000 to €300,000.
Application forms will be available online in the coming weeks.
Announcing the new initiative, Minister Humphreys said, “if the Pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that we all have discovered the true meaning of ‘community’. That’s why I am delighted today to announce the new ‘Community Centres Investment Fund 2022. I am making available €15 million which will support the refurbishment and upgrade of community buildings across the country. Does your local Community Centre or Parish Hall need an upgrade or facelift? Does your local community need financial support to carry out fire safety or other necessary repair works? Then this Fund is designed to support you. The new Fund will provide grants for small and large-scale projects and help us to provide focal points for communities as they come back together. I will publish details on how local community groups can apply for this funding later this month”
During the webinar, The Minister and her officials outlined the details of other investment stream, which are underpinned by ‘Our Rural Future’ and the ‘Town Centre First’ policies.
There was a detailed discussion, too on the areas the Department will be prioritising investment, such as:
- Regeneration projects in rural areas that focus on economic growth, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres. The ‘Boyle 2040 Project’ was given as a good example of the type of project that could be replicated. Boyle 2040 was previously allocated €4.3 million under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund. The project shows how regeneration funding can be accessed if a locally driven tailored plan is developed.
- Remote Working and connectivity. This will include further developing the Connected Hubs Network for remote working, adding to the existing 900 free WiFi4EU hotspots around the country, bringing more publicly accessible Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) online.
- Outdoor Amenities. A continued focus on investing in our unique amenities such as our walkways, trails, lakes, mountains, blueways and greenways. Under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, there will be unprecedented investment in outdoor tourism – supporting activities such as kayaking, cycling, mountaineering, surfing and paragliding.
- Projects that help communities to bounce back from the pandemic by providing focal points for community activities. This will be done under the likes of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the new Community Centre Investment Fund.
The Minister spoke about Government’s vision for rural areas and communities across the country, “it is now almost a full year since I launched Our Rural Future, the Government’s policy for rural development, which sets out the most ambitious set of objectives for rural development in the history of the state. I also recently had the pleasure of launching the Town Centre First Policy, which will tackle vacancy and combat dereliction. Together, these two strategies and the funding that under-pins them, will revitalise town centres, keep jobs in rural areas, support adventure tourism and the green economy. Above all, they will make our towns and villages better places to live, work, and raise a family. Today I have also published the calendar for all our funding schemes for 2022 so that community groups and local authorities can plan ahead and use all of these funding streams to deliver maximum in our rural towns, villages and parishes.”
There was significant investment in rural communities last year with €106 million in rural regeneration funding approved, €70 million provided under the transitional LEADER programme and €73 million allocated to the first ever Rural Active Travel Programme.
This level of investment along with remote working and broadband initiatives demonstrates the Government’s commitment to rural Ireland.
Minister Joe O’Brien said, “the capital funding programmes outlined today, including the newly announced Community Centres Investment Fund, are complemented by a suite of ongoing and planned current funded programmes which play a large part in supporting those living in communities, and in many cases ensuring that it is possible for people to engage with these capital supports. There is little point in having great infrastructure if there are not the people using those facilities to deliver the many community & voluntary programmes and schemes across the country. That is why I am committed to supporting the Community and Voluntary sector to maximise its impact in communities throughout Ireland.”
Speaking about her Department’s investment package for this year, Minister Humphreys said, “I have provided a schedule for all my Department’s funding programmes for the year. This includes key dates for applications and guidance on the types of projects that will receive support. My message to everyone today is that the funding is available – so identify good projects, make your applications strong and get them into my Department. In 2022, we want to continue to invest in top-class projects up and down the country to support thriving rural areas and create vibrant communities.”