Mixed reaction to €10m renewal drive

There has been mixed reaction locally to the €10m Town & Village Renewal Scheme which was launched on Tuesday. Funds will be made available to local authorities this year to support the regeneration of rural towns and villages across Ireland.

  According to Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys, who launched the scheme, particular focus will be placed on supporting smaller towns, with populations of less than 5,000, and a smaller number of projects can be supported in each county for towns with a population of up to 10,000.

   Minister Denis Naughten has welcomed the scheme.

  “This scheme will see up to eight separate projects in towns and villages in County Roscommon receiving a grant for revitalisation where the project will have a ‘sustainable and visible impact’” he said.

  The projects will be selected by the councillors in County Roscommon by late September.

  “We have all seen the devastating effects the downturn had on rural communities and it is vital that we invest in our small towns and villages and revitalise these areas…to ensure they remain at the heart of social and commercial activity,” added Minister Naughten.

  However, local Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice was much less complimentary about the scheme, saying that it was no more than a drop in the ocean.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice said that while €10m appears to be a lot of money, when it is divided between all the counties in Ireland it will work out that around eight towns in each county will receive around €40,000. He said that a far more significant investment than €10m would be needed in order to regenerate rural Ireland.

  “To be quite frank about it you would want twenty times’ that if you were to make an effort in regenerating parts of rural Ireland. Any money for rural renewal is good but it will make little or no difference to towns.

  “It would be far better to bring in initiatives to encourage people to improve their buildings and towns, or offer better rates to businesses. Those kind of measures would start the revolution of regenerating rural towns” he concluded.

  Senator Maura Hopkins said: “As Government spokesperson in the Seanad with responsibility for Regional and Rural development I am very happy that this Fine Gael Government is prioritising the development of our regional economies.

  “Up to €380,000 is to be made available to each of the local authorities in the Roscommon/Galway region and I urge both Roscommon County Council and Galway County Council to apply for funding under this scheme.”

  She continued: “The grants will cover up to 85% of the cost of a project. Each Council will be required to engage with local businesses and communities to develop and implement projects which can have a real and lasting impact on our towns.

  “The engagement of a local community where possible is a key priority for me and I am happy the Minister has included this measure in the scheme. Town Teams have been formed in many towns across our region and they must now be the key drivers of these projects along with other relevant stakeholders.”