01/07/2004

Cash registered with rural retailers

Fifty-six rural retailers from across the province are celebrating after receiving their share of a £440,000 grant allocation under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Council (RDC) Rural Retail Support Programme.

The Programme, which opened in September 2003 with funding from the EU Peace II and International Fund for Ireland, aims to put support for the rural retailer at the top of the shopping list.

Retailers were offered a combination of support including a business diagnostic, training and mentoring along with the opportunity to access a small project grant of up to £10,000 at 50%.

Commenting on the award, Caroline Breakey of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Council (RDC) said: “The Rural Development Council recognises the importance of local shops in a rural community and the vital role they play, providing invaluable services to members of the community, particularly in areas where public transport is often inadequate.

"The Programme has engaged with over sixty retailers who collectively employ over 200 staff. With assistance from the Rural Retail Support Programme 42 of these jobs will be maintained and a further 20 could be created. These outputs alone demonstrate the valuable contribution rural shops play in the commercial viability of local communities and to the rural economy.”

Helen Kirkpatrick, Board Member with the International Fund for Ireland (The Fund) added: “The Fund is particularly delighted to be involved in supporting the Rural Retail Support Programme. By encouraging and supporting the development of the rural retail sector communities will benefit from improved access to services and a strengthening rural economy.

The Northern Ireland Rural Development Council (RDC) is a key delivery agent of the Rural Development Programme, independently managed by a 21-member council drawn from representatives of the broad rural community constituencies.

The RDC plays a vital role in influencing rural development policy, developing and delivering practical programmes, sharing information and building effective partnerships.

(MB)

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