It seems that rural policies are like buses, nothing comes for a long time and then three arrive almost together. The REDZ Pilot Scheme allocations were announced by Minister of State Ann Phelan, a Town and Village Renewal Scheme was announced by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the National Ploughing Championships last week as part of the new Capital Investment Programme  and finally, not a new scheme, but a reminder from Minister Coveney of the allocations for the next seven years under the Rural Development Programme.
The REDZ Pilot Scheme
A list of the 51 projects allocated funding is available but there is no detail of the projects themselves. They are listed by REDZ title and it must be assumed that some of these projects are across two or more REDZ combining to make the 26 projects noted by Minister Phelan. There are 2 projects worth more than €200,000 (Drogheda and the Shannon Blueway) and a further 11 worth more than €100,000. Another 21 projects were allocated between €50,000 and €100,000 and 17 projects were under €50,000.
The press statement notes the aims and objectives of the REDZ pilot are to complement the objectives of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) as well as addressing the priorities identified for LEADER (poverty reduction, social inclusion and economic development of rural areas). Pending the success of the pilot initiative a call for proposals for a more extensive REDZ initiative under the LEADER elements of the RDP will take place during 2016 (see link above) and it seems €5m has been set aside for this (see below).
Rural Towns and Villages Renewal Scheme
How will the Rural Towns and Villages Renewal Scheme included in the new capital plan Building on Recovery Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 announced by the Taoiseach at the Ploughing last week complement the REDZ scheme? Here are the details from Building on Recovery:
The Exchequer will provide €5 million in 2016 through the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government as part of a new €30 million investment in rural towns and villages. The new scheme will support the revitalisation of rural towns and villages with the aim of improving the living and working environment in rural communities and enhancing their potential to support increased economic activity into the future.
This scheme will be administered by the DECLG and operated by the local authorities (some more detail here  in a joint press release by Ministers Kelly and Phelan). It seems there will also be a regional development element in this scheme:
Included within this allocation is €1 million each year in 2016 and 2017 to establish a Strategic Regional Development Office in the Western Region under the Western Development Commission (WDC). This will co-ordinate the implementation of recommendations of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) in the region. This will be a pilot initiative and, if successful, could be replicated in other regions ..
The Rural Development Programme (2014-2020)
Finally, the Rural Development Programme (co-funded by the EU’s European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the national exchequer) will have an average spend of €313 million of EU funding annually (an aggregate sum of €2.19 billion over the 7-year Programme lifespan). The allocation for each measure was provided in a written answer to a parliamentary question by Minister Coveney and a recently published summary booklet provides detail in a format more accessible than the full programme document.
While titled the Rural Development Programme, this is effectively an agriculture support programme with one measure, LEADER, a broader rural development scheme. (The measures in the RDP are listed in the footnote below ).
Measure 19 ‘Support for LEADER local development’ has been allocated €250m for the programming period. Of this allocation €10m will be spent on ‘Cooperation Projects, €15m on the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine Artisan Foods Initiative; a €5m reserve has been allocated to the REDZ Initiative and the final €220m will be divided between the 28 sub regional areas (see full details here). Local Development strategies are being prepared under the following themes:
- Rural Economic Development / Enterprise Development and Job Creation (incorporating Rural Tourism, Enterprise Development, Broadband, Rural Towns).
- Social inclusion (building community capacity, training, animation and Rural Youth initiatives).
- Rural Environment.
A new National Rural network will be established and funded under this Programme.
So where are we with Rural Policy?
It’s great that investments are being made to stimulate rural renewal and rural development. There have been many calls for it and much analysis (see CEDRA for example). Let’s hope that these schemes will be good value for money, focused on current policy objectives and, importantly, that they will achieve the most worthwhile outcomes for the people who are living in rural areas.
To return to the bus simile, we’ll have to have faith that those buses are taking rural policy where we want it to go.
 3.1 Measure 1 – Knowledge transfer and information actions
3.2 Measure 2 – Advisory services, farm management and farm relief services
3.3 Measure 4 – Investments in physical assets
3.4 Measure 7 – Basic services and village renewal in rural areas- Ireland 2014 – 2020. From the title this would seem to be focused on non agricultural rural development, but in actual fact it is “a complementary measure to GLAS, intended to encourage a holistic approach which increases understanding and management of both the natural and built/cultural heritage present on individual farms. Accordingly, participation in GLAS is the prime eligibility condition.”
3.5 Measure 10 – Agri-environment-climate
3.6 Measure 11 – Organic farming
3.7 Measure 13 – Payments to areas facing natural or other specific constraints
3.8 Measure 16 – Co-operation
3.9 Measure 19 – Support for LEADER local development (CLLD – community-led local development)
 Projects where two or more LAGS work together, these projects can be national or international with the 2014-2020 programme placing a particular emphasis on Irish cross border cooperation