Time to have your say on the new rural policy
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has urged rural dwellers and community groups to have their say on the new ‘Rural Policy Framework’ which is open for consultation until 6th September.
Mr McAleer said: “As a consequence of leaving the EU Rural Development Programme (RDP) due to Brexit we are now required to develop a rural policy for the north.
“The RDP was a key building block for our rural communities and provided vital support over many years for the development of a network of community centres, village renewal schemes and the creation of many small businesses and employment opportunities.
“I have been lobbying the DAERA Minister for the past year for progress on a replacement programme and I am glad to note that many of the objectives of the EU RDP are reflected in the new draft programme.
“However, funding is a serious concern and despite British government assurances that they will replace the lost EU funding there has been no progress on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The UK Community Renewal fund, administered by Westminster has only allocated £11m in totality for the north, leaving a funding deficit of £60m compared to our budget had we remained in the EU.
“The new draft programme incorporates five thematic pillars: the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship; sustainable rural tourism; promoting health and well-being; increasing employment opportunities and improving connectivity.”
Mr McAleer continued: “I broadly welcome the thematic pillars but I would be keen to ensure that the goal of ‘connectivity’ is expanded to include cooperation measures to help local communities forge links with other communities across Ireland, the EU and Britain.
“The need for co-operation measures will be reflected in the Sinn Féin response to the consultation.
“Cooperation measures will become extremely important to help avert any possibility of the north being isolated as a region because of Brexit.
“I am also keen that the LEADER methodology is used to deliver this new rural policy.
“Over many years, through Local Action Groups (LAGs) we have built a strong knowledge base of social partners working with elected representative to identify and develop grassroots projects.
“The new policy must effective and tailored to meet the social and economic needs of our rural communities and I strongly encourage local groups and rural dwellers to have their say in the consultation which is open until 6th September”.
To respond log on to: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/daera-central-services-and-rural-affairs/rural-policy-framework/