An announcement of over £10M in new rural development funding for Mid Ulster has been welcomed by Mid Ulster District Council.
News that the region is to receive the second largest allocation in the new 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, was confirmed by DARD Minister, Michelle O’Neill, yesterday (Wednesday 22 October).
Commenting after meeting Minister O’Neill as part of a Council delegation, Councillor Cáthal Mallaghan, Presiding Councillor (Chair) of the Council, said:
“By the end of the current rural development programme, this area will have benefited to the tune of some £17.2M, a spend which will have leveraged a further £11M of investment from across the public and private sector.
“Confirmation of this new round of funding means we have a tremendous opportunity to build on the successful work to date and continue to deliver grant aid to projects which will make a visible and tangible difference to the economies of rural areas and to the lives of people who live and work there”.
The Council delegation also took the opportunity to ask Minister O’Neill for support in securing core government funding specifically to tackle deprivation in rural communities:
“While clearly the continuation of the rural development programme is significant, we cannot lose sight of the fact that 55% of our most income deprived population live in rural, and often isolated areas. There is, however, no equivalent programme to target these deep pockets of deprivation and so we took the opportunity to ask Minister O’Neill to raise the issue with her Ministerial colleagues and to explore the possibility of introducing funding which will help to tackle a clearly identified need,” said Councillor Mallaghan.
A Local Action Group (LAG), made up of local Councillors and community representatives, will be appointed to lead the new Mid Ulster Rural Development Programme.
“Key to the success of the rural development programme is the involvement of local people who are well placed to develop priorities for a local strategy and to drive that strategy forward,” said Councillor Kenneth Reid, Deputy Presiding Councillor (Vice Chair) of Mid Ulster District Council.
The new programme is likely to include funding across a range of areas, from tourism and infrastructure to community-based projects.