Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon has welcomed confirmation today (Thursday) from his colleague Minister Heather Humphreys of Government funding of €4.277m for the planned Food, Drink & Skills Hub at the former Model School in Athy under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.


“This is another fantastic investment for Athy in a project that will help to develop jobs and businesses in the food sector for the entire South Kildare region and wider surroundings.  The innovative project, which has been a key priority for me and my colleague Cllr Ivan Keatley for many years now, will build on the core traditions of food production that Athy was famous for.


“I have worked with Kildare County Council, the Local Enterprise Office and state departments over the last number of years to progress this project and I am delighted that significant Government funding has now been confirmed.  Special thanks goes to Jacqui McNabb of Kildare LEO whose vision and passion drove this project.


“Today’s funding confirmation of €4.277m will add to previous Government allocation of €476k to complete the design phase of the project along with a commitment of €500k from Coca Cola towards the project. These amounts together with the decision of Kildare County Council to proceed with planning permission for the site in 202,1 means the site is now shovel ready and can proceed to tender in the very near future.


“Today’s announcement by Minister Heather Humphreys of €115m to 23 landmark rural regeneration projects around the Country is focussed on combatting vacancy and dereliction by regenerating iconic town centre buildings and giving them a 21st century purpose. This exciting project for Athy at the site of the former model school will restore an iconic building from the 1800’s and turn it into a key driver for economic development and recovery in this region.


“The building works proposed will see this historic building converted into a State-of-the-Art Food, Drink and Skills Innovation Hub which will provide a dedicated space for enterprise development, job creation and training. A community Food Discovery Centre and Café will also be developed on site.  The project will support food entrepreneurs/starts ups and drive job creation in the agri-food sector in the region.


“This is a great economic boost providing critical employment and training opportunities for South Kildare residents. In conjunction with progress on Athy’s ring road, new primary care centre, inspiring library and the Barrow Blueway it will help to contribute to a regrowth and energy for Athy and surrounding areas and its residents. I look forward to seeing the project progress in the coming months and see the long term benefits it can bring to the area” concluded Minister Heydon.