Pilot scheme announced to encourage families to return to living in town centres

Elaine Loughlin, Political Correspondent

Six rural towns are to receive €100,000 each to encourage families to return to living in town centres, Minister Michael Ring has announced.

A pilot scheme is to be introduced as part of Budget 2019 in a bid to rejuvenate rural towns by getting more people to live there.

However, it will be up to each of the six identified towns to come up with specific ideas and plans.

The road to Castleblayney. One of the towns included in pilot scheme.

Announcing the new scheme Mr Ring said: "We are setting up the pilot scheme we are saying to the communities it's up to you now, the six towns that have been picked we want them to come back to us with any idea that they have."

Boyle, Co Roscommon; Callan, Co Kilkenny; Ballinrobe, Co Mayo; Banagher Co Offaly; Castleblayney, Co Monaghan and Cappoquin in Co Waterford have been selected for the initial pilot scheme.

Mr Ring said he would be asking the local authorities to work with businesses, voluntary organisations and members of the community in these towns.

"A lot of towns have suffered in the last few years in relation to dereliction, there are a lot of vacant buildings and shops in towns.

"We are giving these towns the funding, we are asking them to get consultants to work with the local authorities, to work with the community and to come back with ideas of how they think we can address the difficulties that they have."

The proposals put forward by the six towns over the coming months will then feed into how a €1bn Rural Regeneration fund is spent across the country in the next 10 years.

Some €55m of this fund is to be used next year to provide grants of at least €500,000 to towns and villages with a population of under 10,000.

Mr Ring added: "The six towns that we have picked they may come back with six different ways that they could see their town being developed.

"Some towns may like to see the Derelict Sites Act being used more, some towns might go back and say if we got a small bit of grant aid or if the local authorities put housing in it would help," he said.

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