McAleer welcomes ‘Recharging Rural’ report
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed a new ‘Recharging Rural’ report which calls for a more joined up rural policy across government.
Commenting on the report commissioned by the Princes Countryside Fund, the West Tyrone MLA said it provides an “important basis for government departments to consider how to better support rural communities”.
He added: “The report identities priorities, barriers, changes, issues and challenges for rural communities. The reports states that a lack of joined up rural policy approach is a key challenge that needs to be addressed.
“Poor access to broadband and mobile phone coverage, poor road and transport infrastructure and lack of employment opportunities are the top three barriers identified in the report for rural communities. A key issue for communities is ‘outmigration’ of young people. The lack of affordable housing is one of the top challenges being faced by rural communities in the future.
“The key drivers of rural poverty, social isolation and the fact that many young people are leaving our communities could be down to the lack of investment in services, transport infrastructure and broadband.
“The report has identified a number of changes that need to happen in order to address the broad spectrum of challenges faced by rural communities; there needs to be a reduction in the closure of services; the appropriate level of funding that recognises the higher cost of improvements and improve rural broadband and mobile phone coverage. In order to achieve these changes, the report identifies that there needs to be greater joined up thinking; investment in digital connectivity as a priority and policy being more cognizant of rural needs.
“While we have the rural needs act in the north, the finding of this report further reinforce the need to respect, listen and understand rural communities. We will write to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to seek their assessment of recommendations in this report as well as engaging with rural stakeholders.”