Questions raised over value of €1bn in countryside
Question marks have been raised over how far the €1bn rural regeneration fund would stretch given the massive need for investment.
The 10-year blueprint sets out the aim of reversing rural decline by targeting measures to address vacant premises and deliver regeneration.
It sets out that local authorities will be supported in buying sites and providing local infrastructure for people to build their own homes in smaller towns and villages.
It also recognises there is a need for housing for people to live and work in the countryside, and will allow single housing in rural areas based on "economic" or "social need".
After the success of the Wild Atlantic Way, it points out it will move to boost tourism development with a National Greenways, Blueways and Peatways strategy.
Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association, said the funding is welcome but the plan will ultimately be judged on the level of actions carried out in rural areas.
Mr McCormack said without real implementation the vision could end up being seen as another false dawn.
"The €1bn Rural Regeneration Fund is a real step in the right direction but looked at over a 10-year period will that sum be sufficient given the massive need for investment in rural areas? We note too that only half of the fund is specifically dedicated to rural areas," he said.
On planning, Mr McCormack said that he welcomed the inclusion of social criteria in applications to build in rural areas but the test would be its success in allowing people to build in their own community.
Irish Farmers' Association president Joe Healy said it welcomed some of the aims of the plan. These include recognising the need for housing, the regeneration of towns and villages and the urgent need to deliver on the controversial National Broadband Strategy.
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