CASE STUDY: NI LEADER Programme 2007 2013
The LEADER Programme of the 2007 - 2013 Rural Development Programme supported over 1800 projects from across rural Northern Ireland. Funding supported farm diversification initiatives, business creation and expansion, service provision, tourism initiatives, heritage projects and renewable energy.
The LEADER approach, launched in 1991, is the European Community’s preferred means of enabling local communities to take ownership for the development of their areas. It recognises that local people are best placed to identify solutions to local problems and to make the most effective use of available resources in taking forward local development plans.
During the 2007 2013 Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme, LEADER measures covered all settlements with less than 4,500 inhabitants and was delivered by 7 competitively selected Local Action Groups (LAGs), each in partnership with a cluster of local councils.
LAGs were typically representative of the diversity of rural life and included farmers, businesses, community and voluntary interests and it brought together private, public and civic sectors. The LAG model incorporated 79 Joint Council Committee members (elected representatives) and 196 Local Action Group members (a mix of social partners and elected representatives).
The programme proved exceptionally popular with over 6,000 applications received from across Northern Ireland.
The 7 LAGs were tasked with implementing measures which targeted both economic and social projects and offered support to a wide range of projects across all aspects of rural life. The measures covered support for areas such as diversification from agricultural activities; business creation; tourism; basic services for rural communities; village renewal and development; and conservation and upgrading of rural heritage.
The Projects Directory from the 2007-2013 NI RDP shows the diversity of project activities supported by the Programme.
At the end of the Programme 1,828 projects were successfully completed with project claims to the value of £83.4million released.
Despite the economic downturn during the first years of implementation the LEADER investment successfully supported 636 farm family members and 447 rural micro businesses, resulting in the creation of 268 new businesses and 1,080 new jobs.
Under the tourism, basic services and village renewal measures and additional 114 new jobs were created by 47 projects, while over £1.5 million additional visitors were recorded. Support under the Rural Heritage measure led to over 1.3 million people enjoying access to amenity land/nature or conservation sites.
Peartree Barn Nursery emerged from the conversion of a derelict farm building into a day care facility. The promoter Julie Ann Todd identified an opportunity to develop the family farm in Hillhall, outside Lisburn, through the provision of a new day care and after-school care facility. A demand for childcare facilities was identified in the local area by the promoter and by investigations of NISRA and Health Trust statistics. The project was successfully implemented in 2013, with £49,892.44 funding from LEADER and match-funding of £88,172.68 from the promoter. The business has grown more quickly than expected and is now able to offer up to 55 childcare places and created 13 jobs within this rural area.
Galbally Youth & Community Association implemented a 5300 sq. foot extension to its community centre to provide a purpose-built playgroup, a new space for parent and toddler groups, after schools activities, a youth club and a high quality meeting, conference and training space. The Centre, originally built in 1994, has reached full capacity with demand for services and activities. Following a village planning exercise the group applied to LEADER, securing grant award of £515,795. A part-time community development coordinator has been employed and the project has provided capacity for 52 playgroup spaces and 24 after school places. It has sustained 2 part-time posts in the playgroup and created a further 2 full-time and 1 part-time positions. The new space has also been the catalyst for additional health, fitness and arts activities, aswell as conference facilities. This activity has created regular part-time employment for a team of approximately 12-15 people.