Taoiseach Enda Kenny outlined the government’s new ‘Action Plan for Rural Ireland’ in County Lonfgord today – and local TD Peter Fitzpatrick believes that the €60 million investment to help rejuvenate rural towns, villages and regional cities could benefit Ardee.
Kenny was in Ballymahon to launch the new plan earlier on Monday, which seeks to create 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020 – a move which in turn will revitalise small towns and villages outside of the main urban areas.
Among the initiatives included in the plan are a move to allow derelict shops and commercial premises be converted into homes or apartments without having to apply for ‘change of use’ planning permission. The government also want to increase the number of small housing schemes in small towns such as Ardee and villages like Collon and Tallanstown, thus reducing the number of one-off housing builds.
“The Government’s new Action Plan for Rural Ireland contains over 270 targeted actions that will help to deliver these benefits to people here in Louth and East Meath,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
“The Plan contains innovative measures to support the revitalisation of over 600 rural towns and villages across Ireland, which will see investment of up to €37 million per annum in rural development schemes such as the Town and Village renewal Scheme, the CLÁR Programme and the Rural Recreation Programme.
“A number of towns and villages across Louth and East Meath were badly affected by the recession of recent years and part of Fine Gael’s Action Plan will review planning legislation to allow the change of use of vacant commercial properties in rural towns and villages. I hope to see this having an impact in towns like Dundalk, Drogheda and Ardee,” the TD continued.
“There will also be a new pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in towns and villages.”
The above moves are designed to attract people back to the main streets of towns and villages across the country – and thus have a positive effect on the business and retail outlets in the immediate area.
Among the parts of the plan that Ardee can benefit from are a plan to hire more Garda officers in a bid to make rural areas safer. The government intend to add 3,200 new garda members over the next four years. They also have detailed funding for a community CCTV grant scheme.
In addition – and perhaps most interestingly from an Ardee point of view – the government also say the potential for investment in regional roads “in the context of the review of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021” will also be examined.
To date no funding has been made available for the ‘shovel ready’ Ardee bypass project as it was not originally included in the Capital Investment Plan but previously it has been stated that the N52 bypass was essentially on ‘standby’ should a project elsewhere fall by the wayside.
If there is to be scope for more road infrastructure funding for rural areas in the wake in the review, it would seem that Ardee is well-placed to benefit.
The government’s new plan is structured around five themes. They are supporting sustainable communities; supporting enterprise and employment; maximising rural tourism and recreation potential; fostering culture and creativity in rural communities; and improving rural infrastructure and connectivity.
“Broadband is crucial to many people in rural Ireland, particularly those trying to run a business. I am pleased that the Government is allocating an initial €275 million to implement the National Broadband Plan and will be implementing the recommendations of Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. Every Local Authority in the country will have a Local Digital Strategy and broadband officers to see this through, ” Fitzptarick said.
Investment of €4 billion is also set to be made under the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, which includes a figure €250m in the LEADER Programme. Rural tourism will also be supported, as well as €50 million to be ploughed into sports and recreation across the country.
“Sports and recreation play a major part in the Action Plan which will have a positive impact on communities here in Louth and East Meath.”