€1.8m was paid out to a wide range of community and enterprise projects in County Clare during 2011 under the current EU LEADER Rural Development Programme, bringing to €3m the amount paid out locally since 2009. The actual amount approved in this period was €5.5m.
Figures released this week by Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) reveal that €1.25m has been invested in enterprise, leading to the creation of at least 70 full-time jobs and the retention of hundreds of other jobs in established businesses. A further €1.75m has been paid out to community and training initiatives, as well as community projects such as children’s playgrounds, astro-turf facilities, and community centres.
CLDC will allocate more than €5m to local projects and initiatives during the period 2012-2013, while it expects to pay out €2.5m to pre-approved projects during 2012.
LEADER is the EU initiative for Rural Development that provides approved Local Action Groups with public funding (EU and national) to implement plans for the development of their own areas. Under the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme, funding of €425.4m is being provided for LEADER projects, 55% from the EU and 45% from the Irish Exchequer. The funding represents the largest ever package for rural development in Ireland.
According to CLDC Chief Executive Doirin Graham: “The Rural Development Programme presents significant opportunities for developments and sustainable job creation in rural areas, despite the economic challenges facing Ireland.”“Since 2009, CLDC has administered more than €5.5m to dozens of companies, projects and other initiatives throughout County Clare. An additional €5m euro will be allocated up to 2013 further complementing the considerable developments that have taken place locally since the beginning of 2009”, she added.
Ms. Graham said the funding allocations have supported a wide range of initiatives throughout rural County Clare, including village renewal and development, tourism activities, diversification into non-agricultural activities, basic services for the economy and rural population, training and information, and conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage.
Gerard Kennedy, Enterprise & Rural Development Manager, CLDC, noted that business creation and development initiatives had particularly benefited under the Rural Development Programme.“Enterprise projects, which include Business Creation and Development, Encouragement of Tourism Activities and Farm Diversification account for €1.25m of the allocation to date. This is expected to translate into 70 full-time [or full-time equivalent] jobs directly, in addition to considerable part-time and indirect employment, as well as assisting with the retention of many jobs in established businesses”, he added.
Explaining how allocations are made under the Rural Development Programme, Mr. Kennedy commented: “All private projects may be supported to a maximum of 50%, subject to specific ceilings. For example, grant aid of €100,000 will be allocated on the basis that the actual project is costing €200,000 or more so that the LEADER grant levers at least a similar amount. Where community projects are concerned LEADER funding can be up to 75% of the cost and for some training projects LEADER may provide 100% funding. We have calculated therefore, taking all of the measures into account, that the €5.5m grant-aid would have levered at least a further €2.5m in private and community funding giving an overall spend of €8m in the county.”
Clare Local Development Company was established in 2009 with the merging of Rural Resource Development, Ennis West Partners, Eirí Córca Baiscinn and part of Obair Newmarket-on-Fergus. In 2011, East Clare Community Support and part of Ennis CDP also merged with CLDC. The organisation is responsible for the delivery of a range of rural and enterprise, social inclusion, community development, work placement and environmental initiatives in County Clare.
Currently the company employs 68 people on a wide range of programmes, including LEADER, Local Community Development Programme, Rural Recreation and Local Training Initiatives, and community work schemes. It is also responsible for the employment of a further 232 people on schemes including, Community Employment, the Rural Social Scheme and Tús.
A full list of all projects supported to date under the EU LEADER Rural Development Programme can be found on the CLDC website, www.cldc.ie.