Rural Regeneration and Development Fund Frequently Asked Questions

Date of latest update: 27 September 2018

This FAQ will address the most common queries relating to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the application process.  The FAQ will be a live document which will be updated as additional queries arise.

Should you wish to be kept informed of developments in relation to the Fund, you can add your details to our mailing list.

The first call for applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund is now closed.  Sincere thanks to those who have submitted applications for the Fund.
It is currently expected that a second call for applications for the Fund will take place in mid-2019.

The Application Form and Information Booklet for the Fund can be accessed at the links below.

Application Form – Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Information Booklet – Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund – Information Sessions

Wednesday 5th September

Cork City (Clayton Silver Springs Hotel), 10am – 1pm

Thursday 6th September

Carrick-on-Shannon (Landmark Hotel) 10am – 1pm

Tullamore (Tullamore Court Hotel – Goodbody Suite), 3:45pm

Friday 7th September

Drogheda (Barlow House, Narrow West Street), 10am – 1pm

Why is this fund being put in place?

What will the Fund support?

What are the Categories of Proposals under which applications may be made?

How much will the Fund provide to projects?

Who can apply?

What areas are eligible?

What type of activities will be supported?

How will projects be chosen?

What are the criteria against which proposals will be judged?

What is the Appraisal Scheme for the Fund?

What are the timelines for application to the Fund?

Who are the likely applicants to the fund?

What are the governance and reporting arrangements which will apply to successful projects?

Will 100% of successful projects be funded?

Will you be holding information sessions in relation to the Fund?

Can a project which would be eligible for funding under another scheme or programme, for example the Sports Capital Programme or LEADER, also apply for funding under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund?

Will the funding be allocated to areas on a proportional basis e.g. by Local Authority area?

Can you progress separate elements of an overall project as applications under both Categories 1 and 2?

Can a community group put forward a project, once they secure an appropriate lead party for the application?

When do successful projects need to commence?

When will the next call for proposals take place in relation to the Fund?

What expenditure is eligible under Category 2?

Why is this fund being put in place?

Project Ireland 2040 sets out a comprehensive framework for the future development of Ireland, to plan and enable a prosperous economy, marked by equality of opportunity and well-being for our citizens.

Rural areas play a key role in identifying our national identity and in driving our economy. They will be a key part of our country’s strategic development to 2040. For that reason, one of the National Strategic Outcomes of the National Planning Framework is to achieve Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities. Other National Strategic Outcomes, such as creating A Strong Economy Supported by Enterprise, Education and Skills, and Enhanced Amenity and Heritage will also support rural development.

As part of Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed to providing an additional €1 billion for a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund over the period 2019 to 2027. The Fund will provide investment to support rural renewal for suitable projects in towns and villages with a population of less than 10,000, and outlying areas.  The Fund is being administered by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The Fund provides an unprecedented opportunity to support the revitalisation of rural Ireland, to make a significant and sustainable impact on rural communities, and to address de-population in small rural towns, villages and rural areas.  It will be a key instrument to support the objectives of the National Planning Framework, and in particular to achieve Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities.

Initial funding of €315 million is being allocated to the Fund on a phased basis over the period 2019 to 2022.

What will the Fund support?

The objective of the Fund is to support coordinated and integrated projects between Government Departments, State Agencies, Local Authorities, other public bodies, communities and, where appropriate, philanthropic funders and/or the private sector, which will have an impact on sustainable economic and social development in rural areas.

Funding will be awarded through a competitive bid process, based on delivering the objectives for rural Ireland in the National Planning Framework.

The Fund will support ambitious and strategic projects which contribute to sustainable rural regeneration and development.  It will support investments of scale which would not otherwise be delivered without the additionality provided by the Fund, and projects that are outside the scope of existing schemes.  In this context, projects are likely to be multi-annual and multi-faceted, involving a number of elements or phases as part of a broad strategic plan.

Key outcomes will be to support sustainable community and economic development in rural Ireland, including through regenerating smaller towns and villages and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation to support job creation in rural areas.

What are the Categories of Proposals under which applications may be made?

The first call for proposals under the Fund invites applications under two categories:

Category 1: “Ready-to-Go” proposals, or initial phases of projects which can be commenced in 2019, which have the necessary consents (e.g. planning) in place, are at an advanced stage of design, are in a position to satisfy value-for-money requirements in accordance with the Public Spending Code, and are procurement-ready.

Category 2: Proposals that have clear potential and quantifiable objectives but require further development to enable them to be potentially submitted as Category 1 proposals in subsequent funding calls.

Successful applications under Category 2 above will be approved to allow detailed development of the proposal to be progressed.  Issues that may need to be addressed as part of the development of the proposal could include land ownership/title, planning and design work, value for money assessment, and procurement.  Funding will be provided towards the cost of project development in these cases, including for technical or expert assistance.

How much will the Fund provide to projects?

As a general rule, the Fund will provide up to 75% of the total project value, with at least 25% to be provided in matching contributions by the applicants.  Match funding may be in the form of a combination of wider Exchequer and/or State sector expenditure, Local Authority investment and/or land, community investment, philanthropic contributions, private sector investment (where appropriate), or other asset contributions.

In-kind contributions (e.g. land lease or voluntary labour, based on verified time spent and the rate of remuneration for equivalent work) are an eligible form of matching contribution; however, a minimum of 10% of matching contributions must be in cash.

A higher maximum contribution of 80% from the Fund will be considered where community contributions form more than 50% of the match-funding.

The precise level of grant for an individual project will depend on the nature and quality of the proposal, and having regard to State Aid rules. While maxima contributions are outlined here, in some cases, the Fund might form the minor part of the total investment, providing a small but important element of funding to add value to a larger project which already has substantial funding commitments in place.

It is envisaged that projects under the first call for proposals (July 2018) will be of a scale such that the minimum request from the Fund for Category 1 projects will be €500,000.  There is no upper limit, but all proposals must demonstrate detailed project costings and clear value for money.

In terms of Category 2 projects, no upper or lower limit is specified.  However, as outlined above, all proposals must show detailed costings and demonstrate value for money.

Who can apply?

Proposals under the Fund must demonstrate a collaborative approach between two or more organisations.  Subject to this condition, the Fund will be open to Local Authorities, Local Development Companies, State agencies, other Government Departments, philanthropic funders, the private sector and communities.

However, for the purposes of compliance with public financial procedures, the lead party in the application must be a State-funded body. To clarify, for the purposes of this call for proposals under the Fund, a State-funded body is a body established by central Government or with central Government approval and which receives a portion of its funding from the State; this includes, for example, local authorities, Local Development Companies, semi-State companies and other State agencies. As stated in the information booklet, consideration must be given to State Aid rules in examining potential grants for projects.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate that the Fund can provide additionality to their existing level of activity and deliver a sustainable impact on rural areas.

What areas are eligible?

The Fund will focus on all settlements and rural areas with fewer than 10,000 people which are located outside the five city metropolitan areas.  Projects that involve collaboration across Local Authority boundaries, as well as within those boundaries, are strongly encouraged, where the participating settlements/areas meet the population criteria.

Rural towns with a population of over 10,000 people are eligible to apply for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund which is administered by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

A number of towns with fewer than 10,000 people but with more than 2,500 jobs (2006 baseline) and which function as significant centres of employment may also be eligible for support under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (Gorey, Shannon, Nenagh, Westport, Roscommon, Monaghan, Tuam, Thurles, Dungarvan, New Ross, Ballinasloe, Carrick-on-Shannon and Trim). However, no individual project will be able to avail of both the Urban and Rural Funds.

What type of activities will be supported?

The type of activities that will be supported from the Fund can include:

  • Measures to tackle infrastructural deficiencies in relation to services, access, or other infrastructure that may be needed to support town centre housing and/or commercial development.
  • Active land management, including the acquisition, planning, design, and enabling (through servicing, decontamination or otherwise), of areas, sites and buildings, to support strategic regeneration.
  • Measures to address building vacancy in order to encourage town centre residential living or commercial development, including building refurbishment, redevelopment and/or demolition.
  • The development of areas, sites and buildings for community or public facilities;
  • Infrastructure that enables improved accessibility within, and to, towns and villages, supporting in particular sustainable modes such as walking, cycling, and public transport links, but also including improvements to roads, bridges and car parking facilities that encourage footfall.
  • Infrastructure that improves telecommunications connectivity.
  • Public amenity, public realm, safety and security measures and recreational facilities.
  • Projects that support job creation, entrepreneurship and innovation in rural areas (e.g. development of Digital Hubs, Enterprise Hubs, Creative Hubs, training facilities); alignment with Local Authorities’ Local Digital Strategies should be demonstrated, where appropriate.
  • Projects which take an integrated approach to developing employment opportunities within a town and/or its environs, for example, based around a sectoral strength (e.g. an industry cluster) or a cultural, heritage or environmental asset.
  • Development or expansion of tourism initiatives which generate new areas of economic activity and attract increased visitor numbers to rural areas.
  • Enhancement of heritage and/or other community assets including the provision/enhancement of recreational or leisure facilities.
  • Measures to tackle social disadvantage.
  • Support will also be made available under Category 2 approvals to further develop proposals and prepare for further calls under the Fund. Such costs can include engagement of a dedicated Project Officer, feasibility studies, architectural and engineering design costs and other technical services as required.

This list is not exhaustive but provides an indication of the type of activities which will be eligible for support.  A proposal may include more than one component as part of an overall plan to deliver a strategic objective for a town, village or rural area. In that regard, attention should be drawn to the Key Criteria which proposals will need to demonstrate, most particularly the strategic vision required.

How will projects be chosen?

Proposals for funding will be made through a competitive bid approach, and should be founded on their relevance to the outcomes in the National Planning Framework and demonstration of the Key Criteria for the Fund.

Decisions on the successful proposals will be made by the Minister for Rural and Community Development who will be advised by a Project Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will be chaired by the Department of Rural and Community Development and will be comprised of a number of relevant Government Departments, as well as external experts, and may meet with applicants to seek clarifications on a proposal when considered necessary.  The Board will assess the proposals against the Key Criteria established for the Fund, using the Appraisal Scheme, and make recommendations to the Minister.

What are the criteria against which proposals will be judged?

To achieve the objectives of the Fund, proposals supported will need to demonstrate:

  • Relevance to one or more of the National Strategic Outcomes of Project Ireland 2040.
  • A collaborative approach, involving relevant Government Departments, State agencies, Local Authorities and other bodies as appropriate.
  • A strategic vision which is consistent with County Development Plans, Local Economic and Community Plans, the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies being developed by the Regional Assemblies, or other local or regional development plans/strategies.
  • Additionality and value for money – the Fund will not substitute for investment which is already provided for, or which should be provided for, under the remit of a Department or agency.
  • Leveraging of funding from the partners to the application, including philanthropic funders and/or the private sector where appropriate.
  • A sustainable impact on the social or economic development of rural communities through measureable outputs.

What is the Appraisal Scheme for the Fund?

This should be read in conjunction with the Key Criteria for the Fund.

Assessment Criteria Max. marks available
A.      Policy objectives
Demonstrable contribution to the National Strategic Outcomes in NPF 200
Evidence of linkage to County Development Plans, LECPs, RSESs or other approved development plans
Extent of collaboration between promoting parties 150
Capacity of partners to deliver project as envisaged and to meet Public Spending Code requirements 100
B.      Potential Impact
Economic or social impact on rural areas or communities (e.g. jobs, investment, place-making, etc) 200
Self-sustainability and potential for project replication 100
C.      Quality of budgetary proposal
Quality of budgetary proposal and Value for Money 150
Extent of co-funding/additionality (public or private) 100
TOTAL 1000

What are the timelines for application to the Fund?

The first call for applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund is now closed.  Sincere thanks to those who have submitted applications for the Fund.

It is currently expected that a second call for applications for the Fund will take place in mid-2019.

The first call for proposals under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund opened in July 2018 and closed at 12 noon on 27th of September 2018.

It is envisaged that an initial announcement of approved projects will be made in late October/early November 2018 following the assessment process, and that projects (or project development in the case of Category 2 proposals) will commence in early 2019.

It is expected a further call for proposals will be announced in mid-2019 and that subsequent calls will be announced on an annual basis thereafter.

Who are the likely applicants to the fund?

Proposals will be invited from Local Authorities, and other locally/regionally based organisations, such as Local Development Companies, as well as Government Departments and State Agencies. For the purpose of accountability and oversight, the lead partner of all projects will be a State funded body (see here for further clarification); however, collaboration with the private sector will be encouraged.

Proposals may be made in respect of settlements of 10,000 or less and their outlying areas. A limited number of specified towns with a population of 10,000 or less will be eligible for support under the Urban Regeneration Fund which will be operated by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government; however, funding will only be provided under one Fund for any particular project.

What are the governance and reporting arrangements which will apply to successful projects?

All expenditure incurred will be subject to the terms of the Public Spending Code which can be found at http://publicspendingcode.per.gov.ie/, and the Capital Works Management Framework, available at https://constructionprocurement.gov.ie/capital-works-management-framework/.

In addition, the requirements outlined below will apply to all funding approved from the Fund.

  1. All appropriate central and/or local Government financial, procurement and accounting rules and regulations will be complied with.
  2. Any legislative requirements relevant to the project will be adhered to.
  3. Each Lead Applicant will fully account for the sum advanced in a timely manner.
  4. All projects will be subject to audit by the Department of Rural and Community Development and/or the Comptroller and Auditor General and/or the Local Government Audit Service. Full and accurate documentation to support all expenditure should be maintained and accessible for audit purposes at all times and for a period of six years from the date of completion of the project.
  5. On-going monitoring and evaluation of the project outputs and outcomes should take place in the context of assessing the impact of the intervention. The Lead Applicant will be expected to collect appropriate data to facilitate this process on an on-going basis and make this data available to the Department of Rural and Community Development. Specific metrics to be collected will be included in the Funding Agreement between the Department and the Lead Applicant.
  6. Projects will acknowledge the support of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in all public announcements and advertising relating to the project and will use relevant Government of Ireland/Project Ireland 2040 branding as set out in the Funding Agreement.
  7. The Department of Rural and Community Development and/or the Government of Ireland may highlight the project in the promotion of the Fund or of its wider policies.
  8. The Lead Applicant will provide any reports and information relating to the project as may reasonably be requested by the Department of Rural and Community Development from time to time.
  9. Each Lead Applicant will provide a contact point to the Department to facilitate timely interaction in the context of payments and information requests.
  10. A final report detailing all elements of expenditure relating to the grant aid will be required upon project completion.

 

Non-Compliance with the rules outlined above, or any additional stipulations agreed during contract negotiations, may result in a requirement to refund part or all of the grant aid awarded.

Will 100% of successful projects be funded?

In general, the Fund will provide up to 75% of the total project value, with at least 25% of funding to be provided from other sources. A maximum of 80% funding will be considered where community contributions form a significant element of the match-funding.

Proposals submitted for funding will have to demonstrate a stakeholder contribution in the form of a combination of wider Exchequer and/or State sector investment, Local Authority investment and/or land, community investment, philanthropic contributions, private sector investment (where appropriate) or other asset contributions.

Will you be holding information sessions in relation to the Fund?

The Department intends to hold an Information Session in relation to the Fund in the coming weeks.  If you have subscribed to our e-mail update you will be notified of the event once a date has been identified.  News of the information session will also be updated on this webpage.

Can a project which would be eligible for funding under another scheme or programme, for example the Sports Capital Programme or LEADER, also apply for funding under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund?

It is not envisaged that the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will be a substitute for investment which is already provided for, or which should be provided for, under the remit of any other Department or State agency.  The minimum request from the Fund for Category 1 projects in this first call for proposals is €500,000, which exceeds the upper limit for many other schemes or programmes.  For example, the maximum grant available under the Sports Capital Programme in 2017 was €150,000 for local projects and €250,000 for non-local projects, while the funding ceiling under the LEADER Programme is a maximum of €500,000, subject to a number of conditions.  Attention is also drawn to the Key Criteria of the Fund which projects will need to demonstrate compliance with.

It should also be noted that no individual project will be able to avail of both the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

Will the funding be allocated to areas on a proportional basis e.g. by Local Authority area?

No, decisions in relation to funding will be based on the applications received and their appraisal.

The precise level of grant for an individual project will depend on the nature and quality of the proposal, and having regard to State Aid rules.

Can you progress separate elements of an overall project as applications under both Categories 1 and 2?

Yes, if there are phases of a project which are ready to proceed then an application can be made for Category 1, with other phases of the project brought forward under Category 2.  However, the overall vision for the project should be set out and the phases of the projects being brought forward should be clearly definable and lend themselves to measurement, in terms of achieving key outcomes in their own right.

Can a community group put forward a project, once they secure an appropriate lead party for the application?

Yes, though the lead party for the project would have to be agreeable to entering into a contract with the Department and would be the responsible party for all milestones of the project being met and for the oversight and reporting of expenditure.

When do successful projects need to commence?

Category 1 projects should be in a position to commence in 2019, being at an advanced stage of design, procurement-ready and in a position to meet value-for-money requirements, in accordance with the Public Spending Code.  The Project Advisory Board may re-categorise a proposal where it is deemed to be more suitable to the alternate category.

When will the next call for proposals take place in relation to the Fund?

It is currently envisaged that the next call for proposals from the Fund will take place in mid-20when19 with further calls taking place annually thereafter.

What expenditure is eligible under Category 2?

Funding under Category 2 will be approved to allow detailed development of a proposal to be progressed, including for technical or expert assistance.  No upper or lower limit is specified in relation to the levels of funding available under Category 2, but all proposals must show detailed costings and demonstrate value for money.