Dáil Éireann - Volume 537 - 31 May, 2001

Written Answers. - Sports Facilities.

[1021] 159. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the extent to which he has examined the possibility of developing an integrated sporting and recreational plan for the entire country with the objective of ensuring ready access to such facilities on a countrywide basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16438/01]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid): The hugely increased investment in sport by the present Government has resulted in a considerably enhanced quality and range of top class facilities from national level to local community clubs and centres.

In the past three years, 1998-2000, this Government has allocated grants to the value of £62 million approximately to in excess of 1,300 projects for parishes, towns and cities. Compared with the three year total of £18 million in allocations by the previous Government in the period 1995 to 1997, the commitment of this Government to the provision of funding for sport and recreation facilities nationwide is clear.

The main objectives of the sports capital programme are to develop an integrated and planned approach to the development of sport and recreational facilities; assist voluntary and community organisations with the development of appropriate facilities in appropriate locations that will maximise use in terms of participation in sport and recreation; prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities; and encourage the multi-purpose use of facilities at national, regional and community level by clubs, community organisations and national governing bodies of sport.

Applications under the programme are assessed in accordance with several detailed criteria, which include the following: the extent to which the project, in terms of growth targets, will increase the levels of active participation in sport/recreational sport and/or result in improved standards of sporting performance and how such increases can be measured; the extent to which the project, in terms of growth targets, will serve to increase participation in disadvantaged areas; the financial viability of the project, i.e. in addition to lottery funding, has the club/organisation sufficient funds or firm commitments for funding to complete the project within a realistic time frame the level of socio-economic disadvantage in the area as defined by ADM Ltd's indicators and the current and planned levels of sport and/or recreational sport facilities in the area; the need to achieve an equitable geographical spread of funds, having regard to the range of existing facilities in each county; the extent to which applicants have consulted with other clubs, community groups, schools and the local authority in developing their proposals and the outcome of these consultations; the need to achieve an equitable spread of funds among different sports and community groups; the [1022] priority of proposed improvements/facilities in relation to the club's or organisation's existing facilities; and the priorities for their individual sports, as identified by the national governing bodies.

Applicants are required to consult with other clubs and community groups, including schools with sport and recreational facilities in their area, and with their local authority before making an application for funding and are also requested to show the outcome of such consultations. The purpose of this is to ensure that regard is had to identified needs of the area and that the proposed development does not result in an overlap with and/or duplication of existing facilities.

Prior to deciding on the funding for national and regional facilities, my Department, in addition to normal assessment criteria, consults with all the national governing bodies of the organisations in question with a view to establishing their present and future priorities. Where appropriate my Department also consults with other Departments, the local authorities and with the Irish Sports Council, in relation to their respective priorities for the provision of sporting facilities.

In addition to the sports capital programme, a sum of £85 million has been allocated for the provision of community sporting and recreational facilities under the National Development Plan 2000-06; specifically provided under the culture, recreation and sports measure of the local infrastructure sub-programme of the regional operational programmes of the NDP. The facilities will be located at gateway towns to be identified in the national spatial strategy currently being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Local Government. Once the gateway towns have been identified, proposals will be sought from local authorities and where appropriate voluntary and community organisations for the provision or upgrading of sport and recreational facilities. Work on the identification of regional gateways is scheduled for completion later this year when implementation of the measure can begin.

In 1999 my Department commissioned ILAM (Ireland), a consultancy firm specialising in sports facilities, to prepare a report on the condition of local authority swimming pools built between 1966 and 1981. Thirty pools around the country were identified as being in need of refurbishment. Under the local authority swimming pool programme, I secured a £45 million funding package for the period 2000-02, an increase in the annual budget from £3 million to £15 million per annum over these years. Grants of up to £3 million are available towards both the refurbishment of existing pools and the provision of new pools, subject in both cases to the total grant not exceeding 80% of the eligible cost of the project or, in the case of projects located in designated disadvantaged areas, 90% of the eligible cost.

Applicants seeking funding for major sports and recreation facilities under my Department's [1023] sports capital and local authority swimming pool programmes are required to provide a feasibility study setting out detailed assessments on such areas as the types of facilities planned, their potential utilisation, viability, appropriateness to local, regional and national requirements and policy directions and their sustainability over a long period of time.

As part of the Government's overall sports policy, my Department has also committed a grant of £5.95 million towards the construction of the national 50 metre swimming pool in Limerick. Construction of this pool is under way and is expected to be completed later this year.

With regard to national sports facilities and their role in my Department's integrated sports policy, Sports Campus Ireland will, of course, cater for a large number of sports, providing a range of top-class facilities for their training and competitive needs.

Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 28.

Questions Nos. 161 to 163, inclusive, answered with Question No. 158.

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 7.