IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Chairperson, Thomas Cooney, has called on Rural Affairs Minister, Heather Humphreys, to ensure that clear decisions and plans emerge from the current Action Plan for Rural Ireland consultation meetings taking place throughout the country.
Speaking after attending the first of these meetings, which took place in Cavan recently, Mr Cooney restated his call on Minister Humphreys to ‘rural proof’ all decisions taken by Government over the coming years and ensure a more balanced economic recovery across the regions.
IFA has identified 10 key action points to kickstart a re-energised rural economy, some of which have formed part of the Association’s Pre-Budget Submission to Government, and require urgent focus:
- A high quality rural fibre broadband network across the countryside, to support farm business, job creation, investment and rural development.
- A three-year exemption from local authority rates for new business start-ups, to support local enterprise development in rural areas.
- Measures, such as tax-credits, to encourage employers to take on apprentices and create long term employment.
- Tax incentives for businesses to locate in villages and town centres, which have been decimated during the recession.
- Increased and measurable targets for policing hours and presence of mobile units in rural areas by An Garda Síochána, to reduce crime and create a greater sense of security in the countryside.
- An increased and ring-fenced annual rural roads budget from the Department of Transport each year, allocated to local authorities as part of a planned repair and maintenance programme. The re-establishment of a separate local improvement scheme fund in each local authority.
- An increase in the number of voluntary rural walk schemes to support economic development and tourism in rural areas.
- A package of measures to facilitate the development of proposed Greenway projects, which works in co-operation with landowners impacted and protects their rights.
- A review of the hedge cutting dates, to reduce the closed period, in line with the nesting season.
- Increased fines and greater enforcement by local authorities to tackle the scourge of littering by passing motorists and users of the countryside.
The forthcoming Budget provides a real opportunity for Government to clearly state its commitment to Rural Ireland by delivering on each one of these key measures and make a real difference for farmers and the wider rural community, said Mr Cooney.