The Minister was speaking as he visited a number of projects in the Ards and North Down Borough Council area that benefited from funding of over £900,000 from the LEADER NI Rural Development Programme.
The Minister began his visit in Ballygowan Village Hall, which has been substantially renovated and upgraded through a £181,000 award from the Village Renewal Scheme.
He then travelled to Beechvale Nursing Home in Killinchy which received a contribution of £90,000 from the Business Investment Scheme towards a £600,000 scheme to provide 11 new en-suite bedrooms and a day room. 11 new jobs have been created as a result of this investment.
Minister Poots’ final stop was to view the results of a £430,000 redevelopment of Killinchy Community Park and the Killinchy Community and Enterprise Hub, which included the installation of outdoor gym equipment, a new adventure play area, a new play area with seating, fencing and hedging, dog agility park, nature area including seating and picnic benches, a wildflower meadow and native planting, an informal kickabout space with improved drainage and installation of a pump track.
Welcoming the overall investment in the schemes, Minster Poots said, “The schemes I visited today represent an investment of over £900,000 from DAERA which, coupled with other funds that have been levered in, brings the total to almost £1.5m. These schemes have helped create employment, sustain groups and provide enhanced community facilities and services for the residents, both young and old, of Ards and North Down.
Minister Poots concluded: “I am delighted that despite the many recent challenges brought about by the Covid-19 crisis these projects have been completed. I want to thank all those involved for all their hard work and dedication in bringing these to fruition.”
The Chairman of Ards and North Down Rural Partnership, who are the Local Action Group tasked with delivering the Rural Development Priority 6 funding in the Council region – Councillor Joe Boyle said: “The Rural Development Programme has made a very significant difference to rural communities in the Ards and North Down Borough. £3.3m of grant aid has been delivered to date with a further £0.9m to be provided by the end of the Programme in 2022 across 78 projects. This has supported 31 businesses and helped to create 45 FTE jobs to date along with a wide range of Basic Services and Village Renewal Schemes. These projects provide both economic and social value to our area.
“We welcome the Minister to Ballygowan and Killinchy and are very grateful to him and his Department for assisting the Local Action Group in administering this essential funding in our rural area.”
Deputy Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Robert Adair, also participated in the visit. He said: “It is fantastic to see this very significant investment in new facilities for our rural communities. They will make a very real difference for local people and are a great boost to our rural economy. We are very grateful to the Minister and his Department for the funding and ongoing support.”