Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Rural Development Programme: Axis 3

Agriculture and Rural Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 15th June 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Fred Cobain Fred Cobain UUP 3:15 pm, 15th June 2009

4. asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for her assessment of the delay involving her Department and the axis 3 council clusters in agreeing a scoring mechanism.     (AQO 2974/09)

Photo of Michelle Gildernew Michelle Gildernew Sinn Féin

I am not sure whether Fred asked question 4 or a supplementary question. I did not hear it in Irish, so I do not know which he was asking. [Laughter.]

The axis 3 council clusters have no involvement in developing the project assessments scoring mark frame; that responsibility falls to my Department, as the managing authority. It was agreed by the programme monitoring committee that the mark frame developed by my officials should be reviewed by the monitoring committee equality subgroup to ensure that a fair and equitable scoring mechanism is developed to assess all applications to the programme, be they from farmers, private promoters or the social economy and community sectors.

I am pleased to confirm that the scoring mechanism has been agreed with the equality subgroup and has been issued to all joint committees and local action groups. Last week, the local action group GROW, which covers Antrim, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey, used a scoring framework for the first assessment panel for projects. It successfully scored nine projects and approved five, worth just over £200,000, to go forward to their full local action group board. I commend that group on its progress. At least two further areas will hold assessment panels over the next couple of weeks.

Members will agree that it is vital that the scoring mechanism reflects all the relevant equality issues and still enables strong and sustainable projects to benefit from the programme funds. It is only by ensuring that that we will reap the benefits of a good, strong and sustainable rural community. The review of the projects scoring mark framework has continued unabated in the areas that have opened for calls. Project staff are carrying out eligibility checks and site visits on the applications, in preparation for their assessment by the local action groups.

Photo of Fred Cobain Fred Cobain UUP

I am glad that the Minister answered both the question and my supplementary.

Photo of Ian McCrea Ian McCrea DUP

I welcome the fact that the Minister has reached the stage where the information is being passed to the local action groups. Does she accept that it has taken too long to get that information agreed and passed to the groups; that rural areas for which axis 3 is designed have suffered because a decision was not made until today; and that there will be no more delays?

Photo of Michelle Gildernew Michelle Gildernew Sinn Féin

I can assure the Member that a new delivery model for axis 3 affords councils a greater and more central role in delivering rural development measures. Their involvement in delivering that will provide good training in preparation for the greater responsibility of councils for rural development delivery under the new RPA. However, the spend is now getting on the ground, letters are going out, and I can assure the Member that there will be no further delays.

Photo of Willie Clarke Willie Clarke Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. What assistance is available under axis 3 for renewable energy projects?

Photo of Michelle Gildernew Michelle Gildernew Sinn Féin

A number of areas are helping us to support renewable energy. In addition, my Department is reviewing its renewable energy strategy, the outcome of which will inform the axis 3 position on stand-alone energy projects. In the interim, the Department is working to promote the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency through our renewable energy action plan. Key actions include support for profitable energy production; supply chain development; forestry products and by-products; use of agriwaste for energy; deployment of renewable energy technologies in the wider economy; and energy efficiency. CAFRE is also delivering technology transfer programmes on renewable energy. I have a very long supplementary, and I am conscious of time, so I am giving you just the bare bones.