Chairman of the Fine Gael Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee Martin Heydon TD has today (Thursday) welcomed confirmation of the €30m Village and Town Renewal Scheme designed to support the revitalisation of towns/villages, making them better places to live and to work, and increasing their potential to support growing economic activity.

Over the summer as part of our Standing up for Rural Ireland campaign myself and a number of my back bench colleagues have been pushing for new initiatives to enhance and develop rural towns.  This allocation of €30m over 6 years is a step in the right direction but we will keep fighting for more.

I would specifically like to see a grant scheme for town centre properties included in the Budget to encourage owners to develop these properties which may be in bad repair or derelict.  Such development would help to re-vitalise town centres as well as creating some much needed additional living space and encouraging residents back to centre of towns. 

The newly announced scheme which will be administered by Local Authorities, will include the enhancement of villages, small towns and the surrounding countryside. Projects such as greenways, cycleways, upgrading parks and civic areas, public utilities such as street lighting and renovation of relevant derelict buildings are just some of the possible projects which could qualify for this funding. 

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) report has shown that rural towns have felt the impact of the economic downturn more acutely than cities and larger urban centres. The Government committed to addressing the recommendations of the CEDRA report and to ensuring that the recovery spreads to all parts of the country. This scheme is delivering on that commitment. 

Other parties talk of the demise of rural Ireland. Fine Gael doesn’t buy into this. Rural Ireland is alive and has huge potential for economic growth which we want to develop.  I welcome this scheme as the first step of a suite of measures that will support and enhance rural Ireland.