Village renewal will need support from new EU programme

A two-day conference held at the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough has examined the future of rural villages.

More than 100 delegates were in attendance from Finland, Waterford, and across Northern Ireland, who are experienced in delivering rural development and village renewal projects.

The local villages represented were Ballygally, Ballycarry, Broughshane, Loughgiel and Kilrea.

The conference was held by the North East Region Rural Development Programme in association with Waterford Leader Partnership and North Antrim Community Network earlier this month and has been deemed a “major success”.

The conference entitled ‘Shaping our Villages –Where next?’ assessed the ‘Village Links’ co-operation project, managed by Waterford Leader Partnership and North East Region RDP, to consider how village renewal is faring at the end of the current Rural Development Programme.

Teresa Canavan, the new chief executive of the Rural Development Council, David Small, deputy secretary of DARD’s Service Delivery Group, Larne Borough Council’s chief executive Geraldine McGahey and Michael Walsh, chair of Waterford Leader Partnership spoke at the conference providing a broad range of perspectives on village renewal and the role of cooperation.

Keynote speaker, Peter Backa, of the Finnish Rural Parliament, said: “The ability to share experiences and what has worked for those who deliver village renewal projects does not often happen and international and regional cooperation within the RDP had helped provide a vehicle to share learning and best practice.”

NER programme manager Andrew McAlister called for smaller villages to have access to support from a new programme commencing in 2015 and he noted strong support for “transnational co-operation”.