New funding of €1bn to revive rural areas




Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring

By Stephen Cadogan

Proposals have been invited for a government scheme to revive rural areas with funding of €1bn from 2019 to 2027.

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund Scheme will generally provide up to 75% of the value of successful proposed projects, with at least 25% to be provided in matching contributions by the applicants.

It is envisaged that projects emerging from the recent call for proposals will be of a scale such that the minimum request from the fund will be €500,000 in the case of “ready-to-go” proposals.

What is the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund?

As part of Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed to providing an additional €1bn for the fund over the period 2019 to 2027. The fund will provide investment to support rural renewal for suitable projects in towns and villages with a population of less than 10,000, and outlying areas.

It will be administered by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The Governemnt says the new fund provides an unprecedented opportunity to support the revitalisation of rural Ireland, to make a significant and sustainable impact on rural communities, and to address de-population in small rural towns, villages and rural areas.

Initial funding of €315m is being allocated to the fund on a phased basis over the period 2019 to 2022.

What will it support?

The objective of the new Fund is to support projects co-ordinated and integrated between government departments, state agencies, local authorities, other public bodies, communities and, where appropriate, philanthropic funders and/or the private sector, which will have an impact on sustainable economic and social development in rural areas.

Funding will be awarded through a competitive bid process.

The fund will support ambitious and strategic projects which contribute to sustainable rural regeneration and development.

It will support investments of scale which would not otherwise be delivered without the additionality provided by the fund, and projects that are outside the scope of existing schemes. In this context, projects are likely to be multi-annual and multi-faceted, involving a number of elements or phases as part of a broad strategic plan.

Key outcomes will be to support sustainable community and economic development in rural Ireland, including through regenerating smaller towns and villages and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation to support job creation in rural areas.

What is the timeline?

The first call for proposals under the Fund opened on July 4, 2018.

The deadline for receipt of applications under this first call for proposals is 12 noon on September 27, 2018. Applications should be submitted electronically on the official application form which is available on the website of the Department of Rural and Community Development at drcd.gov.ie/about/rural/rural-regenerationdevelopment-fund. All applications will be acknowledged. 

It is envisaged that an initial announcement of approved projects will be made in late October or early November, 2018, following the assessment process, and that projects (or project development in the case of Category 2 proposals) will commence in early 2019.

It is expected a further call for proposals will be announced in mid-2019, and that subsequent calls will be announced on an annual basis thereafter.

What are the two categories of proposals?

Category 1 is for “ready-to-go” proposals, or initial phases of projects which can be commenced in 2019, which have the necessary consents (such as planning) in place, are at an advanced stage of design, are in a position to satisfy value-for-money requirements in accordance with the Public Spending Code, and are procurement-ready.

Category 2 proposals have clear potential and quantifiable objectives but require further development to enable them to be potentially submitted as Category 1 proposals in subsequent funding calls.

Successful Category 2 applications will be approved to allow detailed development of the proposal to be progressed.

Issues that may need to be addressed as part of the development of the proposal could include land ownership/title, planning and design work, value for money assessment, and procurement. Funding will be provided towards the cost of project development in these cases, including for technical or expert assistance.

How much will the Fund provide to projects?

As a general rule, the fund will provide up to 75% of the total project value, with at least 25% to be provided in matching contributions by the applicants. Match funding may be in the form of a combination of wider exchequer and/or state sector expenditure, local authority investment and/or land, community investment, philanthropic contributions, private sector investment (if appropriate), or other asset contributions.

In-kind contributions (such as land lease or unpaid voluntary labour ) are an eligible form of matching contribution; however, at least 10% of matching contributions must be in cash.

A higher maximum contribution of 80% from the Fund will be considered where community contributions form more than 50% of the match-funding.

While maxima contributions are outlined here, in some cases, the Fund might form the minor part of the total investment, providing a small but important element of funding to add value to a larger project which already has substantial funding commitments in place.

It is envisaged that projects under the first call for proposals (July 2018) will be of a scale such that the minimum request from the fund for Category 1 projects will be €500,000. There is no upper limit, but all proposals must demonstrate detailed project costings and clear value for money.

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