The deadline to apply for a £1 million fund to support the refurbishment of rural halls in Northern Ireland is approaching, with less than a week left to apply.

The Rural Halls Refurbishment Scheme pilot will provide capacity building training and a grant to rural community and voluntary organisations to deliver capital refurbishment works to rural halls. It aims to keep community facilities viable and support existing rural organisations to remain sustainable and identify new volunteers.

Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots announced the scheme during a visit to St. Colman’s Parish hall in Ardboe outside Cookstown.

The scheme will target rural halls which have had limited previous investment and are under-utilised due to their condition. It is intended to reach rural groups and communities most in need and to assist rural organisations that offer space and services to benefit the rural community.

Speaking during the visit, Minister Poots said: “Community halls play a vital role in underpinning local community life, enabling activities to prevent loneliness among people in rural areas and creating stronger more connected communities.

"Rural Community Groups played a key role in responding to Covid, with much of this work being coordinated from community halls. I am very pleased to be able to support our rural communities through this scheme.

“This scheme will provide the financial assistance necessary to help local voluntary and community organisations fund much needed refurbishment works to rural halls, to help keep community facilities viable.

"These halls will play a key role in tackling isolation and supporting the recovery from Covid when it is safe to do so. It’s particularly important during Northern Ireland’s Centenary year, to recognise the contribution our rural communities have made on not just our way of life, but they’ve also contributed greatly to our economy.

"I will do what I can to ensure that rural life is sustained and thrives as much as possible into the next century.”

Training and funding

A key element of the pilot scheme will be the requirement for a minimum of six members of the community and voluntary applicant organisations to participate in a mandatory ‘Managing your Space’ capacity building training programme.

The training programme will enhance and develop organisation’s capacity and assist the applicant organisations in delivering their capital project.

The Rural Halls Refurbishment Scheme will make individual awards of up to a maximum of £40,000 available to rural community organisations. Funding may be used for a range of small scale refurbishment works and must be located in a rural area.

The closing date for applications is June 11, 2021, at 3:00p.m. Further information and applications can be found here, on the DAERA website.