Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced the opening of a £1m Rural Halls Refurbishment Scheme.
The pilot scheme will provide capacity building training and a grant to rural community and voluntary organisations to deliver capital refurbishment works to rural halls, with the intended aim of keeping community facilities viable and to support existing rural organisations to remain sustainable and identify new volunteers.
The Minister announced the scheme during a visit to St Colman’s Parish hall in Ardboe outside Cookstown. The scheme will target rural halls which have had limited previous investment and are under-utilised due to their condition. It is intended to reach those rural groups and communities most in need and to assist rural organisations which offer space and services to the benefit of the rural community.
Speaking during the visit, Minister Poots said, “Community halls play a vital role in underpinning local community life, enabling activities to prevent loneliness among people in rural areas and creating stronger more connected communities. Rural Community Groups played a key role in responding to Covid, with much of this work being co-ordinated from community halls. I am very pleased to be able to support our rural communities through this scheme.
Minister Poots concluded, “This scheme will provide the financial assistance necessary to help local voluntary and community organisations fund much needed refurbishment works to rural halls, to help keep community facilities viable. These halls will play a key role in tackling isolation and supporting the recovery from Covid when it is safe to do so. It’s particularly important during Northern Ireland’s Centenary year, to recognise the contribution our rural communities have made on not just our way of life, but they’ve also contributed greatly to our economy. I will do what I can to ensure that rural life is sustained and thrives as much as possible into the next century.”
A key element of the pilot scheme will be the requirement for a minimum of six members of the community and voluntary applicant organisations to participate in a mandatory ‘Managing your Space’ capacity building training programme. The training programme will enhance and develop organisation’s capacity and assist the applicant organisations in delivering their capital project.