O’Neill hails £506m Rural Development spend a huge success

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Many rural communities across Northern Ireland have been transformed through support from the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme (RDP), Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

The Rural Development Minister was speaking as she revealed that the provisional final drawdown of EU funding for the 2007-13 Programme was approximately €329.4 million (£269 million), just over 99.96% of the funding available. Matched by a contribution of DARD’s own budget, this provided a programme value of over £506 million.

The Minister said: “I have consistently spoken of the importance of the RDP to our rural communities in creating access to basic services, healthier lifestyles, job creation, sustainability and protecting the rural environment. These benefits are clear to see following the completion of the 2007-2013 Programme.

“The drawdown of €329.4 million in European funding, in addition to match funding, facilitated the creation of approximately 1,200 jobs, establishment of 447 rural micro businesses and 257 rural villages benefitting from the village renewal and development scheme. It has been an immense privilege to have targeted such a significant fund into our rural areas, many of which have previously been neglected of government spending. I have also been able to see at first hand and hear the success stories of how this funding has helped transformed communities.

“Around £37.8million was invested in improving the competitiveness of agriculture and forestry by supporting restructuring, development and innovation. Such investment is critically important to the development of our rural areas and has therefore positively transformed the lifestyles and increased the sustainability of rural communities.”

The Minister added: “I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in the Programme – from project promoters through to council and Departmental staff delivering the measures, through to members of the Programme’s Monitoring Committee – they have all played a part in achieving this hugely positive outcome.”

The European allocation to the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 13 was €329,517,994. The provisional final eligible expenditure under the Programme was €329,392,702.03, meaning the Programme underspent by €125,291.97, approximately 0.038% of the total European funding allocation.

Minister O’Neill concluded: “I frequently hear from farmers and rural dwellers about the importance of rural development funding and I know what a difference it can make to people’s lives. These funds have helped to improve the competitiveness of our agri-food and forestry businesses, protected and enhanced our natural environment and improved the quality of rural life for thousands of people. I now want to make sure that we carry this momentum forward into the 2014 – 2020 Programme and achieve the same very positive result, and I would therefore encourage people and communities to begin engaging with their Local Action Group in anticipation of the LEADER scheme opening in the very near future.”