Rural tourism provides a stimulus for enterprise and job creation. Tourism tends to exploit particular assets that are generally place-specific, for example, landscape and history. Accordingly, it offers significant potential, even in peripheral areas. Interventions under this sub-theme should focus on actions that have the potential to make the area more attractive for local, national and foreign visitors.
Examples of actions that may be supported include –
- feasibility studies to explore the tourism potential of an area;
- marketing initiatives;
- the creation of tourism hubs to facilitate a multi-sectoral approach,
- activities that centre on the development and renovation of infrastructure, which contribute to historic and heritage based tourism;
- actions that promote the development of cultural/heritage infrastructure of local significance and arts-based activities and events; and
- the provision of amenity and leisure facilities, which can support adventure/eco-based tourism.
LEADER supported tourism projects must comply with relevant Fáilte Ireland or other sectoral standards.
LEADER can support micro, small and medium enterprises as defined in Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC.
Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have primary responsibility for micro-enterprise in Ireland. LEADER must complement rather than compete with LEO activity; effective systems of collaboration and consultation are required to ensure a co-ordinated and effective allocation of resources.
The respective areas of LEO and LEADER enterprise activity are outlined in the protocol between the Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This protocol applies nationally, but allows sufficient flexibility at a local level to facilitate project referral from LEOs to LAGs as appropriate.
The CEDRA Report (2014) identifies areas that might benefit most from LEADER support –
- Artisan and other food businesses;
- Renewable Energy;
- Marine diversification (to complement support provided by Fisheries LAGs funded under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund);
- Social Enterprises; and
- Creative Industries.
Supported actions might include investment support or sector-specific training programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs, early stage promoters, social enterprises, start-ups and established SMEs. In the context of Priority 6, developing inclusive models of business support will be key to realising the potential of groups who are underrepresented in enterprise, e.g. women, young people and people with disabilities.
This sub-theme supports the regeneration of rural towns. It seeks to promote them as attractive places to visit, live and do business in. LEADER is particularly suited to revitalising rural towns through co-ordination of integrated approaches that build on the economic strengths and infrastructure of the area whilst addressing the key challenges for business, community and recreation.
Actions to support the regeneration of rural towns might include town renewal schemes that renovate derelict buildings with incentives to attract business to vacant properties. The building or refurbishment of community buildings also provides a multifunctional infrastructure for social, cultural and sporting activities and training for the local community. Developing and promoting unique social events and activities can provide an important stimulus to rural towns. LEADER projects in this area should complement and add value to other national supports for rural towns.
Actions should be sustainable, and consider and incorporate all the needs of the area, i.e. standalone projects that deliver on one objective and do not seek to address multiple objectives should be avoided. Works that normally comes within the remit of Local Authorities, such as large infrastructure projects, are not eligible for LEADER funding.
Increased access to reliable and high-speed broadband is vital for the economic and social development of rural areas and communities. High-quality broadband enables businesses to set-up or continue to be based in rural areas, by overcoming barriers relating to access to markets and services. There is also a potential to create additional employment as access to broadband can support businesses to grow.
This sub-theme supports local actions that complement national initiatives aimed at developing a comprehensive rural broadband infrastructure. Actions might include basic ICT training to priority groups, for example, to enable older people and young people to stay connected. Other actions may focus on skills development for installing broadband, feasibility studies in relation to community broadband and funding for small scale equipment, such as boosters, to allow local businesses access broadband.
This sub-theme is not intended to cover broadband infrastructure, as this is covered under the National Broadband Plan. Where the item proposed for funding is considered to relate to infrastructure, or broadband equipment worth in excess of €10,000, the LAG must get confirmation from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) that the project to be funded will not be funded under the National Broadband Plan over the five-year period following the expected completion date of the project.