The EU Rural Development Programme (RDP) provides a fantastic opportunity to create jobs, support access to basic services, improve our rural villages as hubs for our rural communities and enhance the quality of life in our rural areas.
That was the key message from Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill as she officially launched the LEADER strategy of Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership (Local Action Group).
The Partnership, which is the Local Action Group (LAG) for Mid Ulster, has been awarded £10.16million to deliver a range of EU Rural Development Programme schemes including the: Business Investment Scheme; Basic Services Scheme; Village Renewal Scheme; Broadband Scheme and the Co-operation Scheme.
Addressing guests at Loughry College Cookstown, Minister O’Neill also highlighted the achievements of the previous RDP in delivering for the people of Mid Ulster.
She said: “The importance of EU LEADER support must not be underestimated. LEADER funding provides the opportunity to create jobs, improve access to basic services, encourage healthier lifestyles and improve our rural villages as hubs for our rural communities.
“I am pleased that the Mid Ulster LAG has been awarded £10.16million to deliver a range of schemes through LEADER. Under the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme funding was provided to support 174 projects and created 163 new jobs and I would like this success to continue with the 2014-2020 RDP.”
Minister O’Neill concluded by wishing the Mid Ulster LAG every success with their delivery of LEADER in Mid Ulster. She said: “I believe in the power and ability of our rural communities to deliver positive outputs for the benefit of all and I want the LAG Board and wider membership in Mid Ulster to build on the performance under the last RDP throughout this new Programme.
“The delivery of the LEADER strategy requires partnership working and it is this collaborative approach that will deliver best for our rural areas if the LAGs, councils and the Department work with a common purpose of transforming our rural communities.”
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Linda Dillon commented, “Given that two thirds of our population live in rural areas, the value of the Rural Development Programme cannot be over emphasised. Through Priority 6 funding the District has seen significant investment which will benefit our people and places.
“Such funding enables us as a Council to deliver on our corporate objectives particularly that of Growth where we work to ensure support for rural communities, and the regeneration of our towns and villages.”
The Chair concluded, “The partnership working between Mid Ulster District Council and the Partnership has proven extremely beneficial for the area and I look forward to the Council continuing to support that partnership over the next 4 to 5 years as this new programme rolls out.”
Speaking at the launch, Chairperson of Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership Austin Kelly, said: “Financial assistance available through Priority 6 of the Rural Development Programme will provide significant opportunities for the rural economy of Mid Ulster by supporting the growth of new and existing businesses, job creation and improving access to service provision within our rural communities.
“It is encouraging to see such a strong interest in the Programme even at this early stage and we will now be working towards getting funding out on the ground as soon as possible.”