Community groups and local businesses in County Wicklow have benefited from over €1 million euro in LEADER funding since the programme commenced in November 2017. Despite a delayed start the LEADER / Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014 -2020 is gaining significant momentum in Wicklow and approximately 22% of the overall project budget of €4.6 million is now committed.

The delivery mechanism has changed from previous years and County Wicklow Partnership (CWP) now implements the programme on behalf of Wicklow Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) with Wicklow County Council as financial partner. These closer links have helped spearhead initiatives such as a Social Enterprise Strategy for County Wicklow which has brought a number of key stakeholders together to help progress this sector. Chairperson of the LCDC Cllr. Gráinne McLoughlin says that “the partnership approach continues to be a central feature of the LEADER programme and encourages innovative development methods and opportunities. Many rural communities are driving social enterprises in response to declining basic service levels in their areas and we want to do all we can to help them to address these needs. Due to be published in Winter 2018 we anticipate that this report will be a great resource for communities and social entrepreneurs”.

To date the demand for funding has been highest from the tourism, enterprise and community sectors. An example of a project that has attracted LEADER funding in the current round is Hidden Valley Holiday Park in Rathdrum, who secured funding towards the costs of a new family Aquapark and the expansion of their Christmas Island experience. According to proprietors Lloyd and Molly Williams “Without LEADER funding we would not be able to offer these exciting new activities. Our Christmas Island experience is booking out fast and we hope to offer other seasonal events for a fun family day out. Splash Valley will be in the Top 5 largest inflatable aqua parks in Ireland/UK, and is opening on-site at Hidden Valley Holiday Park in the spring of 2019”.

Businesses or community groups interested in seeking funding are advised to contact County Wicklow Partnership as soon as possible while funding is still available. County Wicklow Partnership on behalf of the LCDC is also seeking Expressions of Interest from projects in the areas of environment and biodiversity to provide for more sustainable development opportunities.

For further information go to www.wicklowpartnership.ie or contact CWP Development Officers Alison Keogh and Siobhán Mehigan on 0402 20955.