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Doherty writes to encourage take up of £500 Rural Development Programme

11 December, 2007

Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty has written to rural community groups throughout West Tyrone encouraging them to avail of the funding opportunities from DARD now existing through the Department's £500 million Rural Development Programme.

Mr Doherty said,

"I have written to rural community groups throughout West Tyrone to ensure that they avail of the opportunity that now exists to secure funding for projects to meet the diverse needs of rural communities throughout the constituency.

"This fund, which amounts to over £500 million is earmarked for rural areas and administered by Local Action Groups (LAG's). These LAGS will be made up of Councillors and social partners and need to be representative of our rural communities.

"In preparation for the roll out of this fund, existing Councils must 'cluster' and form a statutory Joint Committee which the LAG is accountable to.

"Omagh and Strabane District Council areas are in negotiation with Derry and Limavady Councils with the objective of forming a North West Cluster.

"The Rural Development Programme consists of 3 axes. Axis 1 relates to funding for farm family options and axis 2 is funding for Less Favoured Areas.

"However, Axis 3, which amounts to approximately £75 million, has the most potential for rural community groups. This axis has been subdivided into measures 3.1 (Farm Diversification), 3.2 (Microbusiness), 3.3 (Tourism), 3.4 (Access to basic services), 3.5 (Village regeneration) and 3.6 (Built heritage).

"In consultation with DARD Minister, Michelle Gildernew, she expressed the desire to see this programme rolling out as soon as possible and targeted to meet the needs of rural communities.

"She also expressed the strong view that the fund be distributed in its entirety to rural communities. This will obviate the necessity to return any unclaimed funds to Brussels.

"In my letter to the rural community groups, I have highlighted the need to carefully examine the measures contained within the programme and to see how these can meet the needs of their local area and to begin formulating comprehensive proposals so that this golden opportunity is not lost, through default, when the LAG's become operational and open for applications by March/April 2008." ENDS

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