Rodgers launches £80m Rural Development Programme

The Stormont Agriculture Minister Bríd Rodgers has launched a major development programme aimed at injecting £80 million into the heart of Northern Ireland’s rural society.

Announcing The Rural Development Programme in Templepatrick on Tuesday November 13 the Minister urged people living in rural areas of Northern Ireland to bring forward ideas and plans for innovative rural development projects for grant aid support.

The new Programme, which will run to the year 2006, will focus on disadvantage and equality of opportunity and will pay particular reference to encouraging input and uptake by rural women, young people, farm families and the long term unemployed.

Outlining benefits of the Programme Mrs Rodgers said: “I am delighted that it has been possible to pull together this significant £80 million of EU and Government funding. It will provide support for a comprehensive and flexible range of initiatives. I fully anticipate that this support will lever additional private and public funds and bring a total investment across rural areas of Northern Ireland exceeding £100 million.”

The Minister also outlined a joint initiative developed by the Department of Environment’s Environment and Heritage Service, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Natural Resource Rural Tourism initiative will target five disadvantaged rural areas, bringing around £15 million to those five locations and providing opportunities for those living in the designated areas to develop the potential of their natural surroundings.

Welcoming the project Agriculture spokesperson PJ Bradley (SDLP) said: “This is a great boost for rural communities throughout Northern Ireland. Farming families, women, young people and the unemployed will be among those encouraged to develop for those living in rural areas. It is however important that the funding goes where it is most needed.”

In formally launching the new Rural Development Programme the minister, announced that a dedicated on-line web site www.rdpni.gov.ni is now accessible, alongside a series of public “Road Shows” which are scheduled to commence in various locations throughout the Province on Monday, November 19, in order to provide information on the various aspects of the Programme. (AMcE)

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