MEMBERS of the Northern Ireland Rural Residents Forum recently visited community regeneration projects in the Down and Ards areas.
The Rural Resident’s Forum is an advisory body set up by the Housing Executive to advise on rural matters. Its membership is drawn from across Northern Ireland.
The study tour was organised by the Housing Executive’s Rural Unit and Forum members were first taken to Ardglass to see homes that are equipped with solar panels and solar ventilation systems.
The next stop was at Ballyhornan where they were given a presentation on the work of the local resident’s association which has provided a much needed community hall. The presentation also included an appreciation of some of the problems faced by a small isolated rural community.
Patricia Curran from the Ballyhornan and District Community Association welcomed the visitors to the community hall and said, “Ballyhornan and District Community Association is represented on the Rural Residents Forum so it is nice to have our colleagues here to see at first hand what we have achieved so far”.
Following a short trip via the Strangford Ferry, the visitors arrived in Portaferry, where they enjoyed a short walking tour of the village. This was followed by a presentation by Will Brown from Portaferry Regeneration outlining some of the key achievements and highlighting some of the problems faced by a larger rural village community.
Commenting on the visit, Will Brown, Project Manager for Portaferry Regeneration Ltd, said, “It is fantastic to welcome the Rural Residents Forum to Portaferry. This is a rare chance for community representatives from all over Northern Ireland to get together and share ideas. It is also a great opportunity for Portaferry Regeneration to showcase the hard work that is going on here”.
Patricia McQuillan, Chair of the Rural Residents Forum, was delighted with the study tour and commented:
“All of us on the Forum come from rural communities and it is great to have the opportunity to see at first hand what can be achieved when people work together to improve their local area. While no two rural communities will have exactly the same set of challenges, there is still a lot to be learned in seeing how other rural dwellers have responded to their problems and to bring that learning back to our own areas”.
The final word went to Michael Conway, the Housing Executive’s Rural Unit Manager who said:
“The Housing Executive is committed to supporting people in rural areas as they work to regenerate their local communities. For further information about the Rural Residents Forum including how to make a contribution as a member please contact me at 028 90318559. We are particularly interested in hearing from people from the North West area.”