Rural funding programme announced for borough

Representatives at the launch of the Rural Development programme. INLT 08-801CON
Representatives at the launch of the Rural Development programme. INLT 08-801CON

A new funding programme, which will help businesses in rural areas, was announced at a special ceremony in Larne last week.

At the event, which took place at Willowbank Business Park on Tuesday, February 16, plans were revealed to provide £3.4 million of funding to rural communities.

The new Rural Development Programme has been introduced by the Mid and East Antrim Local Action Group (MEA LAG).

The news has been welcomed by the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Billy Ashe. He said: “Council is delighted that the programme will support projects worth £3.4 million in the Mid and East Antrim region over the next four years.

“In these difficult economic times, this very welcome funding will be used to enhance rural areas within the borough in a number of ways.

“Specifically, it will promote the creation of jobs; developing infrastructure; regenerating villages and improve services in local communities.”

MEA LAG Chairman, Roy Beggs MBE, also welcomed the funding announcement. Speaking at the event, he said: “The Rural Development Programme is a fantastic chance for local people to access project financing.

“Given the challenging, current economic climate and the disappointing employment news over the past few months, we have allocated the largest amount of our funding to the Rural Business Investment Scheme.”

He added: “In a change to previous programmes all applicants that are interested in applying must attend a mandatory workshop and I am pleased to announce that the LAG has now set dates for the first set of workshops.”

MEA LAG will distribute the funding across the region under five Rural Development Programme measures. These are, rural business investment, rural basic services, village renewal, rural broadband and cooperation.

A number of representatives were also in attendance at the function, which was held at the Local Economic Development Company (LEDCOM) site in Millbrook. These included Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Andrew McAlister, Investment and Funding Delivery Manager, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Ken Nelson, Chief Executive Officer, LEDCOM.

The programme is supported by funding from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and by the European Union.

To find out more about the funding available or to register for a workshop, contact the Rural Development Programme Office on 028 2563 3266 or visit www.meardp.com.