The team behind the delivery of the LEADER Programme in Longford is encouraging local communities and businesses to consider applying for support from the additional €2.2 million fund for the county under the Transitional LEADER Programme for the period of 2021-2022.
The LEADER programme is a funding mechanism that develops and supports private enterprises and community groups to improve quality of life and economic activity in rural areas.
In Longford, the LEADER Programme is delivered by Longford Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) and its partners: Longford Community Resources (LCRL) and Longford County Council.
A key focus of the Transitional LEADER Programme will be responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and building capacity within communities that have not received LEADER funding to date. The programme also supports job creation, fosters and encourages entrepreneur- ship, supports projects that address the climate agenda, digital transformation and that encourage rural communities to build on their existing strengths and assets.
Commenting on the allocation of the LEADER funding, CEO of Longford Community Resources, Adrian Greene said: “LEADER will give our local communities and enterprises an opportunity to respond to the emerging challenges for their areas and will support measures that provide employment and job creation throughout County Longford.”
At the end of 2020, Longford has fully committed its LEADER budget for the 2014-2020 programme with 119 projects approved to a value in excess of €5.7m and an overall investment of €9.3m in the County.
Cllr Colm Murray, Chairperson of Longford Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) - the Local Action Group responsible for approving projects, thanked everyone who was involved in the successful delivery of the programme.
“On behalf of Longford LCDC, I am delighted that the LEADER Programme has been so successful in Longford,” he said.
“I would like to pay tribute to everyone who worked so hard to make the programme a success, particularly the members of the LCDC, the Independent Evaluation Committee, the members and staff of the financial partner Longford County Council and the members and staff of the implementing partner, Longford Community Resources Clg (LCRL)”.
The 119 projects allocated LEADER funding since 2014 cover a wide variety of activity including enterprise, job creation, tourism accommodation and amenities, community enhancement and environmental projects.
Case Study: Abbeyview B&B, Abbeyshrule
Susan Egan of Abbeyview B&B, Abbeyshrule, successfully applied for and received LEADER funding to establish her bed and breakfast business on the outskirts of Abbeyshrule village.
Susan, her husband and children have been living in the old barracks in Abbeyshrule, which is her family home. It was built in the mid-1800’s for the son of a local mill owner George Eldon Coates.
Susan recognised the niche market for an animal friendly B&B as the property, adjacent to the Royal Canal, is located in one of the counties recognised tourism destinations, the village of Abbeyshrule and is ideally located for cyclists, walkers and other tourists.
Susan approached LCRL with her project idea and began the process of applying to Longford LCDC for LEADER funding which culminated in a three double-bedroom bed and breakfast in a farmhouse environment. Visitors are welcome to have their pets along to stay in their rooms or alternatively be housed in a boarding kennel facility located on site.
Susan commented “I believe that our business would not be the success it is today without the funding we received through this programme and the assistance of LCRL. We would not have been in a financial position to develop our B&B to the standard it now has without the funding, the connections and shared platform of knowledge that LCRL afforded us.”
Susan is now in the process of expanding her accommodation offering with the addition of three self-contained Shepherd Huts with one being fully wheelchair accessible. She will be seeking LEADER funding to bring the project to fruition.
Chief Executive of Longford County Council Paddy Mahon acknowledged the role of everyone involved in the 119 successful projects over the life of the 2014-2020 LEADER Programme.
“Longford County Council is delighted to be the financial partner for the LEADER Programme and we welcome this significant investment of €5.7m which is a great boost for communities and businesses throughout the county,” he said.
“It is particularly pleasing to note that almost 80% or €4.6m of the funding has been allocated to projects put forward by our local community and voluntary groups.”
Case Study: Longford Gymnastics Club
One such group is Longford Gymnastics Club, the grassroots of which commenced in October 2017. It started initially through a Facebook post asking parents if there was a need or desire for a gymnastics club in Longford.
The response to that post was overwhelmingly in favour, as people from County Longford have no option but to travel outside of the county to take part in gymnastic classes. Even then, that’s only if they are lucky enough to get a place.
A committee was formed, and an online registration form launched to gauge how many classes the group would need to cater for. Over 900 children registered to take part in classes and the committee started fundraising for the project.
The aims and objectives of the group are to foster, encourage and provide training/coaching for those with a keen interest in gymnastics in County Longford.
At the outset, Longford Sports and Leisure Centre very kindly donated some equipment and Longford Sports Partnership provided an allocation of €450 for coach training. The committee also decided to explore available funding opportunities identifying LEADER as the one that suited most.
The group approached LCRL to make an application for funding towards conversion and renovation costs to make their warehouse premises suitable as a gymnastics training facility and for the purchase of gymnastic equipment. Longford Gymnastics Club was successful in its application to Longford LCDC and received grant aid of €91,395.21 towards the project.
Barbara Smyth, Chairperson of Longford Gymnastics Club, said; “Longford Gymnastics Club was an aspiration and dream for us for two years.
“The funding received from Longford LCDC through the LEADER programme made that a reality, for us and the children of Longford, who absolutely love the sport of gymnastics.
“The guidance and mentoring we received from LCRL was simply amazing. They prepared us in every possible way to help us succeed with such an ambitious project. We will be forever grateful.”
With the LEADER Programme 2014/2020 coming to an end and all of Longford’s funding allocated, the announcement of a Transitional Programme to provide funding for local communities and businesses until the commencement of the new LEADER Programme in 2023 has been broadly welcomed particularly in these challenging times.
The Chairperson of Longford Community Resources, Pat O’Rourke, welcomed the additional funding commenting; “I wish to encourage local communities and businesses to make contact with Longford Community Resources to find out what LEADER has to offer.
“The programme supports private enterprises and community groups. The funding available will ensure that more vital locally-led projects in areas like climate change, digital transformation, remote working and enterprise development can be progressed in rural communities throughout County Longford.”
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