New scheme set to increase outdoor dining capacity in Westmeath

A new outdoor dining scheme, announced this week, is set to transform Westmeath's towns and villages with street cafes and public spaces.

The scheme, being delivered in partnership by Fáilte Ireland and Westmeath County Council, will help tourism and hospitality businesses in Westmeath to develop and increase their outdoor seating capacity, providing a much needed boost for the sector.

Funding allocated under the scheme will also enable local authorities to develop permanent outdoor public dining spaces in towns and urban centres across the country, similar to those that exist in various European cities.

Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke said the scheme comes as part of the commitments outlined by the Government in its new rural regeneration plan, also published this week.

“Earlier this week, Government launched a new policy entitled Our Rural Future, the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in decades," Minister Burke said.

“Developing outdoor dining and socialising spaces will help to improve the vibrancy of our towns across Westmeath and bring them more in line with the European model. This is a key commitment in our new policy.

“Today’s announcement regarding the new Outdoor Dining Scheme has two aims," he explained. "It will enable individual tourism and hospitality businesses to increase their dining and seating capacity in the short-term, and will also create a long-term strategy for our local authority to develop appropriate, permanent, weatherproofed outdoor dining infrastructure in Westmeath.

“This will support jobs and businesses and transform appropriate outdoor spaces across Westmeath as welcoming, vibrant places that will help support economic recovery.”

Minister of State at the Department of Business, Robert Troy, has also welcomed the scheme, which he said represented "a great opportunity for the hospitality sector to increase capacity".

"The aim is to support jobs and businesses and to transform appropriate outdoor spaces within our cities and towns as welcoming, vibrant places that will help support economic recovery," he added. "The scheme has been welcomed by representatives of Fáilte Ireland and I look forward to working with many local businesses, and local authorities, in driving it to the maximum potential.”

The scheme, which opens for applications on April 12, will be rolled out in two parts. The first will allow tourism and hospitality businesses to apply for funding for outdoor seating and accessories, with grants of up to €4,000 available, representing up to 75 per cent of the ex-VAT cost of equipment purchased/installed. Funding will be available for outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas, electric heaters, screens/windbreaks, plant stands and wooden platforms, and expenditure must be incurred by September 30 of this year.

In the second part of the scheme, local authorities can apply for funding of up to €200,000 to develop medium to large scale permanent public dining spaces in a maximum of two locations, along with appropriate weatherproofing for these spaces.

Permanent weatherproofing structures including parasols, electric heaters, wind breakers/screens, and associated works will be included. Roof structures and awnings will be considered subject to planning requirements.

Senator Aisling Dolan has also welcomed the scheme.

"Now is the time to support businesses to get ready for re-opening in a safe way," Senator Dolan said. "I encourage businesses to apply for this fund and I know people can’t wait to have the opportunity to enjoy a good meal at their favourite place. With this fund covering umbrellas and electric heaters, it will make it more comfortable to eat outdoors. Our towns and villages will have a more European café style experience and it will also give us more choice."

The Outdoor Dining Scheme will be available for application from April 12, and full details will be available on the Department of Tourism website.

 

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