Rural villages receive £110,000 funding boost to explore regeneration projects

Ten villages have secured funding to explore regeneration projects aimed at breathing new life into rural communities across Northern Ireland.

A key element of the scheme is to identify old buildings that could be brought back into use for the benefit of the community – historic properties in this round of funding include a former national school dating back to the 1840s, a workhouse which once housed 500 people before closing in 1916 and a fort dating back more than 400 years.

As part of the Village Catalyst Programme seven viability grants, totalling £60,000, have been allocated to projects in Co Antrim – Bushmills; Co Tyrone – Caledon, Fintona and Donaghmore; Co Londonderry – Culmore; Co Down – Cloughey and Co Armagh – Kilmore.

A further £50,000 in development grants – stage 2 in the process – has been awarded to initiatives in Clogher (Co Tyrone), Hilltown (Co Down) and Ballinderry Upper (Co Antrim).

Plans for community use by the 10 successful applicants include delivering mental health support for young people, a hub for community groups, affordable housing, a youth club, tourist facilities, training space, counselling services and childcare provision.

The Village Catalyst Programme is an innovative partnership between Department for Communities (DfC), Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) and The Housing Executive.

Funding is open to charities, social enterprise and other not for profit groups in rural villages with a population under 5,000. To be eligible the building must be listed or within a conservation area.

Three stages of funding have been open to applications over the last year – viability grants of up to £10,000, project development grants of up to £20,000 and delivery grants of up to £200,000. While budgets for the coming year have not yet been established, applications for delivery grants would be welcome. Both the viability and project development grants are administered by The Architectural Heritage Fund while Department for Communities administers the delivery grant.

Iain Greenway, Director of Department for Communities Historic Environment Division, said: “This scheme follows a pilot where four historic buildings at risk were revitalised to provide sustainable uses for villages.

“In addition to tackling dereliction, we saw the delivery of important new social and economic uses in all of the places supported. This partnership shows what can be achieved when we work together and pool scarce resources.

“I look forward to seeing the projects supported this year coming to fruition and delivering for their communities.”

The 10 village projects awarded grants are:

  • Culmore Fort, Derry: Culmore Community Partnership Limited (£8,000 viability grant).
  • St Patrick’s Hall, Fintona: Management Committee of St Patrick’s Hall, Fintona (£8,000 viability grant).
  • Kilmore Cottage, Portadown: Kilmore Oneilland Building Preservation Trust (£10,000 viability grant).
  • Cloughey Church: The Cloughey Heritage Group (£9,000 viability grant).
  • National School Bushmills: The Bushmills Trust (£10,000 viability grant).
  • Mullygruen House, Donaghmore:  St Joseph’s Grammar School, Donaghmore Parent Support Group (£7,500 viability grant).
  • Caledon Men’s Shed, Old Court House, Caledon: Caledon Regeneration Partnership Limited (£7,500 viability grant).
  • Ballinderry War Memorial Hall, Ballinderry Upper: Ballinderry War Memorial Hall Committee (£20,000 development grant).
  • St John’s Church, Hilltown: Clonduff Development Enterprise (£20,000 development grant)
  • Former Poor Law Hospital, Clogher: Early Years (£10,000 development grant).

Matthew McKeague, Chief Executive Officer of The Architectural Heritage Fund, said: “We are very pleased to be involved with the ambitious Village Catalyst programme. The 10 fantastic projects that have recently secured funding will help to breathe new life back into rural villages across Northern Ireland, as well as deliver significant heritage and social impact within their respective communities.”

For more information about Village Catalyst visit www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/village-catalyst-grant-scheme