Rural Policy Framework: Update

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 13th April 2021.

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Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 12:45 pm, 13th April 2021

6. Mr Boylan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for an update on the rural policy framework. (AQO 1839/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

There has been significant stakeholder engagement and consultation in developing the draft rural policy framework. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that it has had across rural areas, we have been reviewing the draft of the rural policy framework document to ensure that it reflects the ever-changing context, before going to public consultation. It has always been the intention that the rural policy framework will be a living document that is intended to be flexible and adaptable to change. Subject to securing the necessary approvals, I hope to launch a public consultation later this spring. It is anticipated that the rural policy framework proposals will be available for an eight-week online consultation period. Officials continue to deliver a range of schemes to support rural communities and businesses, with just over £20 million having been invested in rural development programmes in the financial year just finished.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his answer. The Minister will be aware that the community renewal fund was launched by the British Government as a main plank of the Shared Prosperity Fund. Can the Minister provide any information on that fund and whether there will be a consultation on trying to protect rural communities and giving them opportunities to access that scheme?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I certainly hope that there will be the opportunity for consultation on the Shared Prosperity Fund. Obviously, that is a scheme that is being delivered directly by the Westminster Government. Unlike others, I do not complain about it, because, ultimately, it is additional money for Northern Ireland. It is additional money for the people whom we represent. I will not decry it just because it is not us distributing it, just I did not decry the EU money when it was coming. This money will replace some of the structural funds etc that came from the European Union. I welcome that and will seek to influence it as best I can for the benefit of my constituents.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

That is the end of our period for listed questions. We now move to 15 minutes of topical questions.