26/01/2009

Rural Development Boosted

Almost £100 million is to be allocated to seven local council groupings to fund vital aspects of the Rural Development Programme.

The Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew (pictured) announced that seven 'clusters', each comprising a number of district councils, will have access to the funding to deliver the Programme and inject money, employment and resources into rural communities.

The Minister said: "This money will help to improve the quality of life in rural areas by supporting a wide range of activities.

"This will include diversification into non agricultural activities, business creation, village renewal and development, tourism, basic services for rural communities and upgrading of the rural heritage," she explained.

During a visit to the offices of the Londonderry Rural Area Partnership on Friday, the Minister announced that she has informed the Joint Council Committees for the seven council clusters, of their allocations of funding.

She said: "The Programme is a real lifeline for rural communities and I am very pleased that this large amount of money that has been devoted to it.
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"Good progress has been made towards the delivery of this important funding for rural areas. It is to the local councils' credit that they have formed partnerships to inject life and prosperity into their local areas and to inspire local people to come on board to form Local Action Groups.

"This money will help the Joint Council Committees in partnership with their Local Action Group to make a real difference in delivering on the big issues that cut across all rural communities.

"I am aware that the South West cluster launched its strategy in early December and opened for applications under the Diversification and Business Creation and Development measures from early January while other cluster areas are seeking expressions of interest.

"This being the case, I would encourage all rural dwellers with ideas to improve their situation or indeed the rural economy to engage with their Local Action Group to make full use of the opportunities available," she continued.

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In June 2008 an initial £50 million was announced to the council clusters on the basis of their population and weighted by deprivation and this announcement brings this figure up to £100 million.

(BMcC/JM)

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