Mr Michael Ring T.D., the Minister for Rural and Community Development, this week announced the launch of the 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme and called for innovative proposals from towns and villages in Mayo.
The scheme supports the rejuvenation of rural towns and villages with populations of less than 10,000 people, through projects that will have a viable, long-term benefit.
The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, for which Minister Ring has allocated €15 million, provides funding for projects that support our rural towns and villages to be more attractive and sustainable. This year’s scheme will, in particular, support projects that aid the economic and social recovery of towns and villages in response to COVID-19.
Launching the 2020 scheme, Minister Ring said: “The Town and Village Renewal Scheme has become an integral part of the Government’s drive to support rural Ireland.
"Since the scheme was introduced in 2016, over €68 million has been approved for over 800 projects across the country. These projects cover a range of activities, from improving the public realm, to job-creation initiatives such as the development of enterprise hubs and digital hubs.
"The benefits for communities in Mayo and throughout rural Ireland are clear. In the last three years, I have allocated over €3.3 million to 34 towns and villages in Mayo through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme."
The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is one element of a €30 million package of integrated supports that the Minister is launching this week as part of his Department’s Rural Development Investment Programme, which is funded under Project Ireland 2040. The other elements of the package are the CLÁR Programme, which was launched on Monday last, and the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme which will be announced later in the week.
Minister Ring continued: "Towns and villages are at the heart of economic activity in rural areas and they are also key hubs of social interaction. As the COVID-19 restrictions are eased in line with the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, our rural towns and villages will have an important role to play in supporting economic activity and in providing safe spaces for people to meet. This year’s Town and Village Renewal Scheme has therefore been developed to help our towns and villages to bounce back from the impact of COVID-19.
"As has been the case previously, the scheme will provide funding of up to €200,000 for a broad range of strategic proposals to support our towns and villages. This year, these strategic interventions will place a particular emphasis on the economic and social recovery of our towns and villages.
"This might include public realm projects to make our towns and villages more accessible in the context of COVID-19 public health requirements, or supports for projects with a direct economic component such as enterprise hubs or remote working solutions.
"In addition, I am introducing a new standalone measure under the scheme that will provide accelerated support for towns and villages to adapt to public health requirements, such as social distancing in the short term, and to encourage increased footfall in our towns and villages as we re-open society and business.”
On the new accelerated measure, Minister Ring said: "This new measure will include a simplified application and approval process to enable smaller projects, which are part of a response to COVID-19, to be approved and delivered quickly. The measure will provide funding of up to €25,000 per project, increasing to €40,000 for higher impact projects.
"While the measure will be delivered through Local Authorities including Mayo County Council, I will expect the project proposals to be developed in conjunction with local business and community groups in each town and village.
"The type of initiatives which could be supported include projects which temporarily repurpose or pedestrianise public areas to facilitate street trading; the development of an online platform to promote all of the retailers in a particular town or village; small scale events that attract people back into town centres in a safe way; or minor public realm works that make our towns safer and more attractive.
"This is just an indicative list, and I have left this measure as open and flexible as possible so that we can fund good ideas that emerge locally. Every town and village is different and I anticipate that the solutions that are developed by each town and village will reflect those differences."
The Minister concluded: "I have increased the funding rate that will apply to projects approved under the scheme this year, from 80% to a maximum of 90%. This should ensure that the requirement on businesses, communities and local authorities to source match funding is kept to a minimum."