An uneven spread of regeneration funding is really hurting rural south Armagh, says one local councillor.
SDLP’s Pete Byrne says areas like Crossmaglen are being hugely impacted upon given the criteria for urban regeneration.
Councillor Byrne says any future policy development should address the uneven spread of funding towards urban areas.
“In the absence of an Executive, local Councils have been leading the way in meeting the challenges of securing growth and attempting to safeguard the border region from the negative impacts of Brexit,” he said.
“In a recent statement, I expressed disappointment in the previous Communities minister’s decision to halt the transfer of regeneration powers to local council.
“I feel that this was a missed opportunity to put regeneration at the heart of Council strategies going forward.”
He added: “Although regeneration powers are aimed at urban centres, there was a commitment to explore extending public realms works into towns with a population of under 5,000.
“However, given the current situation in relation to budgetary planning and the absence of ministers, the department has been unable to launch new policies or programmes or commit to patterns of expenditure that would be outside available budgets.
“This is extremely frustrating considering the level of work currently being undertaken by Council to make this region a great place to live and work.”
Continuing, he said: “While I welcome and support recent regeneration plans for Newry City, I am extremely concerned at the uneven spread of funding towards urban centres.
“We need to think seriously about how we are going to address the under investment in rural areas. There are currently very few rural programmes with DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation programme being the only real targeted and rural specific fund.
“Any representative from a rural community will find this to be an intolerable situation.
“I am eager to push the rural agenda in my role as Councillor and to ensure that Crossmaglen and the general South Armagh area is not left behind.
“The £11 million allocated to the Mourne, Gullion and Lecale Rural Development Partnership is a drop in the ocean to what is required to improve infrastructure, services and connectivity in rural South Armagh.
“We can and must do more to put rural development firmly on the agenda.”
*Main photo by Peter Hatzer