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For Oral Answer on : 05/03/2024
Question Number(s): 67 Question Reference(s): 10459/24
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.


* To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the supports made available by her Department to address vacancy and dereliction in rural towns and villages; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– David Stanton T.D.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 5 March, 2024.


The Town and Village Renewal Scheme  is one of a number of measures designed to rejuvenate rural towns and villages throughout Ireland. It is a key driver of the national Rural Development Policy Our Rural Future, and the Town Centre First Policy.

Since the launch of the Scheme in 2016, over €156 million has been allocated to more than 1,700 projects across Ireland.

As with the range of schemes operated by my Department, there is an ongoing process in place to ensure that value for money is being delivered.

For example, the scheme’s priorities are reviewed at the end of each scheme year to ensure that funding is targeted effectively to support vibrant and attractive communities and to respond to changing needs and opportunities. In recent years, this process has seen the scheme focus more on town centre regeneration projects and the challenges of vacancy and dereliction.

In addition, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is also subject to standard procedures such as the Focused Policy Assessment process, and the Department’s internal control procedures.  More widely, my officials are continuing to work with expert bodies such as the ESRI and the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Services in relation to the analysis and evaluation of our schemes and policies.

As I have already mentioned, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is closely aligned with the Government’s Town Centre First  Policy.  This is a major cross-government policy that aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres. It supports the Our Rural Future vision for a thriving rural Ireland which is integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development.

In 2021, I supported the completion of an initial phase of 26 Town Centre First Plans, including a plan for Abbeyfeale in Limerick and Skibbereen in Cork. Last week, I announced a further 26 towns to complete plans, in which Rathkeale will be Limerick’s second approved town and Kanturk will be Cork’s.  

I have also funded new Town Regeneration Officer posts across local authorities.  These officers will be a key resource locally and they will liaise with local communities and town teams, drive the development and completion of Town Centre First Plans, and help towns to make the best use of the wide range of funding streams that are available to them.  I have recently met with Town Regeneration Officers and Town Team members from across the country, and it is clear to me that there is a huge commitment amongst local communities to supporting and developing their towns and villages.  This local buy in and commitment is central to ensuring we can successfully develop projects that deliver real impact locally in revitalising towns and in addressing vacancy and dereliction.

Last month, I also launched a new range of Town Centre First Supports which will provide further funding of €4.5m to rural communities across the country. A key part of this is funding for up to 3 towns in each county to develop town teams or establish teams in towns where they do not currently exist.

This is particularly important in helping those towns who have not been able to access the range of support schemes to date or who have had trouble in putting in place structures such as a Town Team at local level.  It is important to recognise that not all towns are the same or have the same needs and challenges, and that is why I have been anxious to ensure that the supports offered by my Department are flexible and responsive in their design.

I would encourage community members in Limerick and Cork, and indeed across the country to engage with their Town Regeneration Officer and local authority to get involved. Town Teams will be a key driver in ensuring local rates of vacancy and dereliction are identified and addresses appropriately through the many supports available including my Department’s Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

The fifth call of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, with a focus on revitalising our rural towns and villages and addressing vacancy and dereliction, closed on the 8th of February 2024. I expect to be in a position to announce the successful projects before the end of Quarter 2 of 2024.  
Similarly, I expect to announce successful projects under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme by the end of Quarter 1 of 2024.
Together, these two funding announcements will no doubt add a further tranche of high quality regenerartive projects to be delivered in towns across rural Ireland.  This is in addition to the significant funding I have already announced in previous tranches of these schemes and under new initiatives such as the Building Acquisition Measure.
My Department remains absolutely committed to addressing the issues of vacancy and dereliction in our rural towns and to ensuring that we deliver on the Government’s vision for rural Ireland as set out in Our Rural Future.