Rural Action Plan aims to ‘revitalise villages,’ Sean Canney says

Plan to include ‘incentives to get people to move back to the heart of towns’

Sean Canney says that the €60million Rural Action Plan to be announced today is a "real strategy for real people."

The plan will be set out today in Ballymahon, Co Longford, by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and will contain measures aimed at rejuvenating rural areas of the State, including towns, villages and regional cities.

Canney, who is the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, said one of its aims is to "make rural Ireland a better place in which to live and work by revitalising our town and village centres".

The plan is targeting the creation of 135,000 jobs in rural areas.


Mr Canney said this will be done through a pilot scheme encouraging occupancy in small towns and villages.

One such initiative is a review of planning law to allow for the refurbishment of vacant commercial properties, such as shops and premises that could be above ground floor retail units, without having to apply for planning permission.

More efforts will be made by agencies like the IDA to encourage direct investment in rural Ireland, he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

The range of measures will include tax incentives and is a “whole of government approach”, he added.

This will mean more balanced development, he said.

“Historically there were poor planning decisions. But it’s not too late to make efforts to get things built where they should be.

“We should have incentives to get people to move back to the heart of towns.

“Now we will have a unified plan. There is huge interest and huge support.”

Mr Canney added that the issue of public transport and Expressway needs to be addressed.

He said that he had received a commitment from the Minister for Transport Shane Ross that "no place will be left unconnected because of changes to Expressway".

The plan is structured around five themes: supporting sustainable communities; supporting enterprise and employment; maximising rural tourism and recreation potential; fostering culture and creativity in rural communities; and improving rural infrastructure and connectivity.

It also aims to improve employment opportunities for young people in rural areas, with an emphasis on increasing apprenticeships and trainee schemes.

The Government has already set a target of having 50,000 people in apprenticeships by 2020 and wants over 100 apprenticeship schemes in place.

The rural plan also wants Solas, the national training agency, to work with Education Training Boards to increase the number of options for those leaving secondary school.