Over €1 million in LEADER funding granted to date
ONE-FIFTH OF €4.6 MILLION BUDGET COMMITTED AND APPLICATIONS STILL OPEN
IN excess of €1 million in LEADER funding has been granted to community groups and local businesses in County Wicklow since the programme began in November 2017 – and the window for funding applications is still open.
Despite a delayed start, the LEADER/Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 is gaining momentum in Wicklow and approximately 22 per cent of the overall project budget of €4.6 million is now committed.
The delivery mechanism has changed from previous years and County Wicklow Partnership (CWP) now implements the programme on behalf of Wicklow Local Community Development Committee (LCDC), with Wicklow County Council as financial partner. These closer links have helped to spearhead initiatives such as a Social Enterprise Strategy for County Wicklow, which has brought a number of key stakeholders together to help progress this sector.
According to chairperson of the LCDC Cllr Gráinne McLoughlin, the partnership approach continues to be a central feature of the LEADER programme and encourages innovative development methods and opportunities.
‘Many rural communities are driving social enterprises in response to declining basic service levels in their areas and we want to do all we can to help them to address these needs,’ she said.
To date the demand for funding has been highest from the tourism, enterprise and community sectors, and Hidden Valley Holiday Park, Rathdrum was one of the current round recipients.
The holiday park, run by Lloyd and Molly William, secured LEADER funding towards the cost of a new family aqua park and the expansion of their Christmas Island experience.
‘Without LEADER funding we would not be able to offer these exciting new activities. Our Christmas Island experience is booking out fast and we hope to offer other seasonal events for a fun family day out. Splash Valley will be in the top five largest inflatable aqua parks in Ireland and the UK, and is opening on-site at Hidden Valley Holiday Park in the spring of 2019,’ said the couple.
Businesses or community groups interested in seeking funding are advised to contact CWP as soon as possible while funding is still available. CWP, on behalf of the LCDC, is also seeking expressions of interest from projects in the areas of environment and biodiversity to provide for more sustainable development opportunities.
For further information, visit www.wicklowpartnership.ie or contact CWP Development Officers Alison Keogh and Siobhán Mehigan on 0402 20955.
PLANNING permission for new houses in Wicklow Town will not be granted until 2026 under the terms of the new National Planning Framework, Fianna Fáil Deputy Pat Casey told the Dáil.
He said the County Development Plan adopted only a year ago and approved by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government provided for population growth there of 42,500 up to 2031.
‘However, the Government’s proposed National Planning Framework Implementation Roadmap now provides for population growth in Wicklow of 22,750 in that period, a decrease of almost 50%,’ he said.
‘ That has serious implications. Some €120 million has been invested in critical infrastructure in Wicklow town but planning permission for housing in the town will not be granted until 2026 and even then only permission for 20 houses will be granted.’
He said the Taoiseach stated in the Dáil that there is a housing crisis. ‘We have the infrastruc- ture in Wicklow town and the Minister of State is saying that, with this roadmap, we cannot build a house until 2026. That does not make sense.’
Deputy Casey said Arklow has not had a waste water treatment plant for 30 years but is now getting one. However, under the plan only 24 houses may be built there per year.
In response, Minister of State said Deputies should not get sidetracked on the population caps.
‘ They are not necessarily meant to be caps,’ he said. ‘ They are predictions of where we are trying to go. While I understand the debate has become focused on that, we need to determine how we can get this teased out to get agreement on plans that give us what we need for our counties.
‘Focusing on the populations is missing the point. We need to move away from the old and failed models of just zone and build, which, while rewarding landowners and developers with high financial returns from speculative housing development, did not tackle the longer-term issues facing existing communities.’
Pat Casey TD.