Vital local people have say in financial investment in their areas, says Armstrong

It is vital local people have a say in financial investment in their areas, Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has said.

The Strangford representative was speaking after the Department for Communities announced a £20 million programme designed to support smaller communities recover from the pandemic, in conjunction with several other Departments. The scheme also looks to address issues such as rural poverty, isolation and access to services.

“It is good to see rural villages and towns get some support but many issues remain, particularly concerning the definition of rural,” said Ms Armstrong.

“Normally, rural settlements are limited to 2,500 people, with urban definitions starting from 5,000 people. In between, there are huge numbers of larger rural settlements which would then fall out of funding opportunities.

“While this £20 million is welcome, I look forward to a time when towns such as Portaferry in my constituency do not automatically miss out because they are too big for rural funding but too small for urban funding.

“It is also vital local communities have a say in these programmes. Rural towns and villages can often be left on the periphery and investment without consultation and discussion with them increases that.

“Local people are the heart of rural towns and villages. Any money being invested should help support them, who will have to live with the regeneration schemes, and who know better than anyone what will help improve their area.”