For Oral Answer on : 13/06/2023
Question Number(s): 85 Question Reference(s): 28286/23
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
* To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development to outline the level of interest to date in applications for the 2023 Community Centres Investment Fund; the options available under the fund to communities in circumstances where access to suitable land for construction of a community centre is not easily accessible; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– David Stanton T.D.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 13 June, 2023.
This Government recognises the important role community centres play in community life in Ireland, bringing people together and engaging with those who may be marginalised or disadvantaged.
I am always struck by the immense pride communities have in their locality. The community centre should be a safe, positive and accessible space for all manner of community activities and I want to ensure that community centres continue to remain a hive of activity.
As Minister, I have placed a huge focus on developing and improving community centres nationwide. With this in mind, my Department has put in place an integrated programme of supports for the development and refurbishment of community centres across schemes such as the CLÁR Programme, the LEADER Programme, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Community Support Fund and, of course, the new Community Centres Investment Fund which I announced last year.
This year I have shifted the focus of the Community Centres Investment Fund somewhat. While last year’s iteration of the Fund focused on widespread improvements to community centres all across the country, the 2023 Fund focuses on supporting new build community centres.
The response to last year’s Fund was phenomenal and the initiative was very well received. Over €45.8 million was allocated to refurbish over 860 community centres across the country making them safer, more accessible and more enjoyable places for families and communities. By doing this, we have ensured that these great facilities remain at the heart of our communities and continue to act as a hive of activity. These projects are ongoing and will be completed over the coming year.
My aim under the 2023 round of funding is to support communities with shovel-ready plans to build new community centres.
It became clear from the success of the first round of funding and engagement with communities and the local authority sector that strong demand exists for funding to develop new build multi-functional community centres across the country.
The Government recognises the important services that are provided through community centres so I want to assist community groups striving to build their own community centre to service local needs.
I was delighted to announce a €20 million fund in March for ‘shovel-ready’ new build community centre projects on green or brownfield sites. This means that planning permission and all the necessary consents are in place in advance of application. This requirement will ensure that projects that are ready and waiting are delivered and that facilities become available in a timely fashion.
The Measure is open to both urban and rural communities. The minimum grant funding available is €1 million with the maximum being €6 million. As the grant funding is substantial, and for the purposes of compliance with public financial procedures, the lead party to an application must be a State-funded body, for example a local authority, a local development company or a State agency. So if a community organisation or voluntary group wishes to avail of this Fund they must partner with a State-funded body who will assist them with the application and project management.
As the deadline for receipt of applications is 3rd July, I am not in a position at this stage to definitively quantify the number of applications which will be made nor indeed the number of proposals likely to be funded. The exact number of projects funded will depend on the size and scale of the successful projects. However, I can say that I have been very encouraged by the level of interest to date from communities as we approach the closing date for applications.
In circumstances where suitable land for construction of a new community centre is not available communities can use my Department’s integrated programme of supports to upgrade an existing building. For example, I launched the 2023 Building Acquisition Measure under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in March. The Building Acquisition Measure allows local authorities to apply to purchase vacant or derelict buildings to be brought back into use as multi-functional community spaces, such as community centres.
This year the measure provided an increased funding allocation of up to €500,000 to each local authority to purchase up to three vacant and derelict buildings. This builds on the success of the 2022 Building Acquisition Measure and I was happy to approve support for the first tranche of successful applications this week.
It is important that we build strong, coherent communities and that facilities are provided to meet the needs of these communities into the future. I would encourage communities which have shovel-ready projects to apply for funding under the 2023 Community Centre Investment Fund.