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Councillors appointed to Rural Development Programme Body

21 June, 2008

Sinn Féin Down District Councillors Mickey Coogan and Willie Clarke MLA have been appointed to sit on the Joint Committee and the Local Action Group (LAG) that will administer the £500 million Rural Development Programme.

Cllr Willie Clarke said:

"This Department of Agriculture and Rural development programme will create opportunities for those living and working within rural communities to access funding and support.

"A cluster grouping of four Councils (Ards, Banbridge, Down and North Down) have set up a Joint Committee to deliver the programme with a Local Action Group made up of councillors, farmers, rural business people and representatives of all the section 75 groupings.

"The Programme will be delivered under the main headings: Diversification into Non-Agricultural Activities; Support for Business Creation and Development; Encouragement of Tourism Activities; Basic Services for the Economy and Rural Population; Village Renewal and Development and Conservation and Upgrading the Rural Heritage."

Councillor Coogan, who attended the first meeting of the Local Action Group on Thursday 19th of June, added:

"At the first meeting the LAG made significant progress in developing a Cluster Strategy. I put forward several proposals during the consultation process and I welcome their inclusion in the draft strategy.

"Over the past few of years I have lobbied various government and non-government agencies to retain public buildings, namely rural primary schools as community buildings. A number of rural schools and Post Offices are threatened with closure and in most Townlands and Villages these buildings are an important focal point for the community. Within the Draft Strategy provision has been made to investigate the potential to retain these buildings for community use, and to offer financial and technical support.

"This is an exciting programme and I look forward to delivering practical support to the many rural groups within the District." ENDS

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