A new pilot project is being prepared in the Republic of Ireland’s County Clare called “Opt Rural” which aims to entice more working families to live in rural parts of the county, Clare Echo reported on January 12.

Ireland has invested heavily in funds to help turn the tide on rural depopulation. However, as the 2020 General Election campaign gets into full-swing several opponents of current Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar are using the massive decline in the country’s rural population as a major election campaign platform.

Clare County Council said it intends to submit an application under the country’s Rural Regeneration Development Fund to secure official funding and back for the initiative.

Monica Meehan, Senior executive officer in the Rural Development Directorate in the project said, “The proposal will in the first instance focus on quality housing opportunities with a mandatory precondition that the property be the primary permanent place of residence of the family. The premise of the scheme which is in development is to encourage households to set up permanent places of residence in rural communities by promoting the opportunity and benefits of rural living.”

“Factors such as the provision of broadband and matching skilled employees with employers will also need to be considered. The initial focus will be a pilot project, however, if successful the model can be rolled out in other towns/villages experiencing population decline”.

Meehan’s comments follow a motion from local councillor Joe Garrihy who called on the local authority to investigate the possibility of starting a rural resettlement project in the area.

“The spirit of this motion is that we are brave and ambitious particularly with rural development”. Garrihy thanked the leadership shown by officials but requested for councillors to be further involved in the project.

“It is testament to the Council that this is the sort of stuff we are putting on the table for discussion. We have a significant amount of Council owned property,” Cllr Cillian Murphy outlined. “Rural regeneration is about bringing people back into properties”.

As part of the Project Ireland 2040, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund aims to help and support villages, towns and remote areas through transformational medium and large-scale schemes. Funding of €315mn is initially allocated on a phased basis for 2019 to 2020, Fundraising Magazine reported.

The closing date for the receipt of proposals is 12 pm on Friday, 28th February 2020. Applications should be submitted electronically on the official application form, which is available on the website of the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The Fund seeks to support proposals which will drive increased activity in our rural towns and villages and they can relate to, for example, enterprise, culture, community, recreation or tourism development.