Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has praised the successful delivery of hundreds of projects designed to improve the sustainability of communities in the north-west.
The minister was speaking at an event at The Stables, Sion Mills, near Strabane on Thursday night to mark the achievement of £15.5 million investment on projects funded by Assisting Rural Communities North West (ARC NW) under the ‘Quality of Life’ Axis of the Rural Development Programme across the council areas of Limavady, Londonderry, Strabane and Omagh.
These projects have levered in approximately £10 million through match funding, therefore boosting the local economy by £25 million.
Minister O’Neill said: “I have always maintained that local people know best what is required in their area and, with the Rural Development funding acting as the catalyst, over 300 projects funded by ARC NW, ranging from farm businesses to off-farm businesses, tourism, basic services, village renewal and conservation, have created over 110 new jobs and supported approximately 70 farm businesses and 100 micro-enterprises across the north-west.
“It is worth noting these projects have now levered in close to £10 million investment through match funding, from the private sector, community sector and councils, thereby boosting the local economy by some £25 million, which is a fantastic achievement.”
The minister also announced that the Rural Development Programme is expected to achieve full spend of £100 million, commenting: “The Rural Development Programme 2007-13 has been a tremendous success. I am pleased to confirm that Report spend is on target to reach the £100 million allocated to Axis 3. The RDP has delivered for rural areas across the north, creating 712 new jobs, assisted 592 farm businesses and supported 415 micro-enterprises, providing further economic and quality of life stimulus in rural communities.”
Looking ahead to the proposed new RDP 2014 – 2020, Minister O’Neill said: “The new Rural Development Programme is with the EU Commission for approval. The programme is wide-ranging and includes schemes focussing on Business Investment, Tourism, Broadband, Basic Services and Village Renewal. I am confident that the new RDP will not only build on the success of the current RDP but will inject new forms of innovative funding opportunities that will benefit small business and rural dwellers for years to come.”
The effective delivery of spend on the projects was overseen by a Joint Council Committee, which was made up of representatives from each of the council areas. Councillor Patsy Kelly, JCC chair also congratulated all those involved in helping to attain such a significant achievement particularly given the economic climate in which the programme was implemented.
He said: “This investment is not only a boost to rural people and businesses but to the rural economy in the north west as a whole.”