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Slieve Gullion Councillor, Pete Byrne has spoke of his concerns about under-investment in rural areas after recent announcements about regeneration plans for Newry city.

 Cllr Byrne added that rural development must become a priority and believes any future policy development should address the uneven spread of funding towards urban areas.

Councillor Pete Byrne
Councillor Pete Byrne

Byrne said, "In the absence of an Executive, local Councils have been leading the way in meeting the challenges of securing growth and attempting to safeguard the border region from the negative impacts of Brexit. In a recent statement, I expressed disappointment in the previous Communities Ministers decision to halt the transfer of regeneration powers to local Council. I feel that this was a missed opportunity to put regeneration at the heart of Council strategies going forward.

"Although regeneration powers are aimed at urban centres, there was a commitment to explore extending public realms works into towns with a population of under 5000. However, given the current situation in relation to budgetary planning and the absence of Ministers, the department has been unable to launch new policies or programmes or commit to patterns of expenditure that would be outside available budgets. This is extremely frustrating considering the level of work currently being undertaken by Council to make this region a great place to live and work."

Cllr Byrne has welcomed the recent regeneration plans for Newry City but commented that there are currently very few rural programmes, with DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation programme being the only real targeted and rural specific fund.

The Slieve Gullion representative added "I am eager to push the rural agenda in my role as Councillor and to ensure that Crossmaglen and the general South Armagh area is not left behind. The £11 million allocated to the Mourne, Gullion and Lecale Rural Development Partnership is a drop in the ocean to what is required to improve infrastructure, services and connectivity in rural South Armagh. We can and must do more to put rural development firmly on the agenda."

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