Longford Leader Editorial: Don’t dismiss Our Rural Future plan

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'Our Rural Future' will help develop and revitalise communities all across Longford

'Our Rural Future' will help develop and revitalise communities all across Longford

It has been a relatively positive week for Longford. The Royal Canal Greenway is a €12 million project that will enhance the county’s tourism offering and an influx of visitors is something to look forward to whenever Covid-19 travel restrictions are relaxed.

On Monday morning, the National Transport Authority announced €2 million for cycling and walking infrastructure projects across county Longford under the Active Travel Scheme.

General projects include the reallocation of overall road space for segregated cycling lanes and widened footpaths, basically initiatives that will encourage us to abandon our cars.

There is funding for fifteen local projects with the highest amount of €300,000 for the R198 Battery Road Pedestrian and Cycle Scheme in Longford town.

Then on Monday afternoon, came the publication of the Government’s Our Rural Future plan, trumpeted as a new five year policy for rural Ireland.

Just over four years ago, in January 2017, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Ballymahon to launch Ireland’s ‘Action Plan for Rural Development’. That plan had 5 pillars and 270 actions. Were all actions followed through to a successful conclusion?

Don’t think so.

Fast forward to 2021. The ‘Our Rural Future’ plan has 150 commitments and let’s be fair, it comes on the back of one of the most difficult years in our country’s history.

Minister Heather Humphreys says the plan is about building on the strengths of rural communities, reimagining the type of rural future we want for our young people and seizing on the opportunities created by the pandemic such as remote working.

Key elements of the plan include the development of a network of over 400 remote working hubs, move 20% of public servants to remote working this year, develop specific public sector hubs in regional towns and provide funding to turn vacant properties in town centres into co-working and hotdesking spaces.

Big investment in broadband, town centres, outdoor amenities, roads and communities is also pledged.

If the Government can deliver, there is no doubt that Longford and other rural counties will benefit. So let’s give the plan a chance but here’s hoping it isn’t a false dawn.