There has been a mixed reaction locally to the contents of “Realising our Rural Potential: The Action Plan for Rural Development” which was launched earlier
The Action Plan for Rural Development is the first ever whole-of-government strategy aimed at delivering real change for people living and working in rural Ireland. The Plan contains 276 actions across five key “pillars”, all of which aim to improve both the economic and social fabric of rural Ireland.
The five “pillars” / areas in the plan are:
– Supporting Sustainable Communities
– Supporting Enterprise and Employment
– Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential
– Fostering Culture and Creativity in Rural Communities
– Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity
A promotional video outlining some of the ideas within the plan can be viewed here
There has been a mixed reaction among local politicians:
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice gave a cautious welcome to the Action Plan for Rural Development adding that many of the commitments contained had been announced before and some of the measures have been announced a number of times.
“Commitments with regard to Leader, CAP, Job Schemes, Broadband, Mobile Phone Coverage, Flooding, Rates Relief and many others too have been made in the past and were included in the negotiations in the programme for Government of which I was a part.”
Deputy Fitzmaurice went on to say “There are some glaring omissions too and the figure of €60 million extra to be spent on the plan over three years seems a very small figure. Today’s plan is also short of specifics as for instance, no figure has been put on what the size of the grants will be for the renovation of houses in rural areas mentioned in the plan. On the question of transport and infrastructure there is no specific mention of the plans to upgrade the N4 and N5 roads which are an ongoing concern in this region” he said.
“Very few of the commitments in this 70 page plan are costed. We have seen a multiplicity of these plans being unveiled over the years and they have never been followed through and the people of rural Ireland have been left high and dry as these plans gather dust. It is time that we had real action on the re- development of rural Ireland and not a constant re-hashing of plans that have been announced before several times” he concluded.
Senator Frank Feighan has said the Action Plan for Rural Development will deliver benefits to local communities in the region.
“It is an ambitious plan containing more than 270 targeted actions that will help to revitalise many towns and villages affected by the recession. These range of measures include:
– Initial €275m to implement the National Broadband Plan
– Investing €50m in sports, recreation and cultural facilities
– Protecting vital local services such as the rural post office network
– Safeguarding small schools
– Boosting tourism by funding infrastructure
– Doubling investment in flood relief works by 2021
“As part of this Rural Action Plan, planning legislation will also be reviewed to allow the change of use of vacant commercial properties in rural towns and villages for the provision of apartments and homes.
“There will also be a new pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in towns and villages. This Action Plan for Rural Ireland will see all Government Departments working to revitalise and strengthen rural Ireland and its communities.”
Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy says that the Action Plan for Rural Development contains some real positives and he broadly welcome any such initiative which aims to safeguard and improve services and facilities for people living in rural Ireland.
“Proposals to lure people back to town centres by converting shop fronts into homes are welcome as well as a scheme due to be rolled out by the autumn which will see house buyers offered grants on a pilot basis to restore properties in rural towns and villages. Other positives include 90 new public nursing home facilities and the establishment of 18 primary care centres while I also welcome plans for a grant scheme for CCTV and personal alarms for the elderly. I also welcome the announcement of a new ‘rates alleviation’ scheme which will move to re-evaluate rates in a number of counties including Roscommon as many businesses are crippled by the hike in commercial rates.”
“further clarification needed” on roads
Eugene Murphy went on to say that he would like to see further clarification in relation to the upgrading of the N4 between Mullingar and Longford and the N5 between Scramogue and Ballaghaderreen “as they are vital infrastructural links to the west. While there are undoubtedly some great positives in the plan I am fearful that the €60 million which has been allocated will be spread very thinly leaving under €2 million per county. The Government needs to bring forward a tangible plan with ring-fenced funding and I sincerely hope that this is simply not a rehashing of existing schemes and programmes which were previously announced.
“Moves to introduce possible rates alleviation schemes to support rural development is long overdue. However, the commitment to provide investment of up to €50m for job creation across the regions rehashes what was announced in the Programme for Government last year.
“Shockingly, 900,000 rural households and businesses will still have to wait up until 2023 for state intervention to receive moderate speed broadband – 6 years over the promised deadline. I am also disappointed that there is no specific allocation for the Local Improvement Road Scheme,” concluded Deputy Murphy.