Almost £1.4 million awarded to 15 community groups within the borough through SOAR

The Lord Mayor pictured at Ballymacanallen Community Hall
Pictured at Ballymacanallen Community Hall are the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor Kevin Savage, Ronald Gracey, Roisin McAliskey, Lenny Deans and Kyle Savage, Chair of SOAR.

In 2015, the Rural Basic Services Scheme within NI’s Rural Development Programme was launched – and since then, grants totalling almost £1.4 million have been awarded to 15 community groups in our borough.

SOAR ABC has been pivotal in awarding these grants which have supported improvements in the social infrastructure that provides access to basic services for our rural communities.

This scheme created an opportunity for rural community groups to invest in their areas and to help address social isolation and improve much needed local services. As the Basic Services Scheme draws to a close, its focus on promoting sustainable rural communities has been very evident in many areas across the borough.

Here are just three of those areas:

Redrock Development Partnership (RDP) between Killeen and Markethill received funding of £97,064 towards the redevelopment of the main hall in the area, which had become dilapidated and not fit for general purpose.

This hall is an integral part of this area and is used to deliver a broad range of activities and programmes – with the Over 50s Tuesday Club being the main users. Following consultation, a number of areas for improvement were identified including space, health and safety and lack of provision for certain groups and ages. With the funding received, the hall was given an overall transformation with a new extension and new space for activities and storage.

Another exciting project which received funding is Ballymacnab Community Development Association Ltd which saw the redevelopment, modernisation and extension to their community hall. It can now cater for a broad range of activities and events including the local drama society, the local youth club and sporting groups to name a few.

With the £172,179 funding received, the existing hall was refurbished providing much needed additional space and storage facilities to accommodate these new activities on offer.

The central hub also provides adequate space and much improved facilities for many clubs and societies of all ages, as well as promoting health and wellbeing amongst the rural residents.

Finally, an amazing £144,600 was secured for Ballymacanallen Community Association Ltd towards an overall project cost of £231,360. This project involved the construction of a new extension to the community hall and refurbishment of the existing premises.

Over the last few years, the organisation has been delivering a comprehensive and ambitious social programme but had outgrown its facilities. The new space now provides a larger function room capable of delivering multiple activities, a dedicated youth and training suite, additional storage, a lift and stairs to the first floor and an emergency exit.

The extension of the hall and new facilities available has enabled the Association to open its doors to new groups such as Mothers & Toddlers, Over 50s activities and a dedicated youth space, gaming area and drop-in for 20 young people on a weekly basis. The increase of usage and activity in the hall has also led to the creation of a new job with a part-time Caretaker/Centre Co-ordinator now appointed.

“This is a great and much needed investment into the community infrastructure of our rural areas, commented the Lord Mayor, Councillor Kevin Savage. “These projects will help to invigorate their communities, provide central hubs for all age groups to enjoy and also contribute to the health and wellbeing of the rural residents of the area.”

The Chairperson of SOAR, Councillor Kyle savage added, “We look forward to the remainder of the SOAR projects completing over the next few months and seeing further benefits to the rural areas of the borough. This fantastic investment has given a real injection of life into so many areas which now have even more opportunity to thrive.”