HC Deb 14 February 1991 vol 185 c990
7. Mr. Knapman

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his Department's proposals for the regeneration of small rural towns.

Mr. Needham

In March last year the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland and the International Fund for Ireland joined together in a £16 million initiative specifically aimed at the regeneration of Northern Ireland's disadvantaged smaller towns. Assistance has been approved for Coalisland and Castlederg and a number of proposals for other small towns and villages are well advanced.

Mr. Knapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Unfortunately good news rarely hits the headlines. Can he say how many towns and villages are likely to benefit under this excellent scheme?

Mr. Needham

A large number of towns and villages in Northern Ireland need to benefit and will benefit. Established throughout Northern Ireland are a large number of community projects, including Armagh, Newry, Carrickfergus, Strabane and the Tyrone development association, all working together cross-community. The projects involve councillors, usually Members of Parliament, community groups and voluntary groups, all trying to bring success and regeneration in the face of a long history of violence and an image of terrorism. Anybody going to those towns will see the determination of the local people to get together to find a better future. It is being shown physically in the towns that I have mentioned.

Mr. John D. Taylor

While the urban development grants are welcome, does the Minister recognise that generally they are restricted to smaller towns and villages in the western part of the Province? Does he recognise that many small towns and villages in counties Down and Antrim in the eastern part of the Province are being denied grants and feel that they are being discriminated against? Will he look into the possibility of extending urban development grants to smaller towns and villages in the eastern part of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Needham

It is possible for disadvantaged towns or areas of towns to come forward under the CRISP initiative with plans and programmes. The areas that have worked together, often with the support and backing of the local Member of Parliament, have come much further than the others, which do not have the same degree of consensus. The concept that we are adopting is the same in principle for all towns throughout Northern Ireland. Clearly, we are making sure that we deal first with the most disadvantaged.