Another round of Small Settlements funding has been launched for businesses in Lisburn and Castlereagh. The grant funding of up to £30,000 can be used across a range of sectors in villages with a population of between 1,000 and 4,999 people.

These include Aghalee; Annahilt; Ballinderry; Dromara; Drumbeg; Glenavy; Royal Hillsborough; Maghaberry; Milltown; Moira and Moneyreagh.

The Small Settlements Rural Investment Fund is available to anyone who wants to start a new business in a currently vacant property, as well as for existing businesses who want to expand into an unused area of their property. For businesses wishing to give their shopfronts a facelift, funding is available through the Heritage Shopfront Scheme and Rural Shopfront Scheme. 

Communities Minister, Gordon Lyons said, “The Covid Recovery Small Settlements Regeneration Programme is a joint DfC/DAERA/DfI Programme that has provided councils with over £26m to reinvigorate the post-pandemic economy of our smaller rural towns. It is hoped that initiatives such as the Rural Investment Fund, the Rural Shopfront Scheme and the Heritage Shopfront Scheme will help regenerate these smaller villages and towns by bringing vacant properties back into use and improving the appearance and condition of the existing shopfronts, therefore making these areas more attractive for shoppers and visitors and also encouraging new businesses to invest in our smaller settlements.”

DAERA Minister, Andrew Muir said “Continued investment in rural towns and villages is essential to ensure their sustainability. This ongoing investment through the Covid Recovery Small Settlements Regeneration Programme will enhance the appearance of these settlements, support new and existing businesses, encourage more people to shop locally and act as a catalyst for further developments; all of which benefit the sustainability of rural towns and villages. The partnership approach between my Department, the Department for Communities, Department for Infrastructure, and all Councils in developing and delivering this programme is also welcomed.”      

Councillor John Laverty BEM, Chair of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Regeneration and Growth Committee, said: “The benefits that the Rural Investment Fund, Heritage Shopfront Scheme and Rural Shopfront Scheme can bring to both business owners and to village life is evident from the work that has been carried out.”

He continued: “It is inspiring to see new life being breathed into formerly underused properties and fresh, new shopfronts encouraging more customers through the doors of our local businesses. I’m excited to see the fund support even more local business owners in realising their ideas.”

75 businesses are currently benefitting from the Small Settlements business support fund to date including Ivan Major, owner of Karibu coffee shop in Hillsborough, who received funding through both the Rural Investment Fund and the Heritage Shopfront Scheme. The grants helped him convert a previously vacant unit into a modern and welcoming coffeeshop. 

Ivan says: “The support offered by the council through these grants was fantastic and enabled us to transform what was a dated and run-down unit into an independent coffee shop with character, finished to a high standard both inside and out. 

“We love the results, as do our customers who have particularly remarked on the lovely old stone wall that we have made a feature of the interior. The grants definitely helped us to achieve our ambitions for Karibu. I would encourage any business to seriously consider the opportunity that these grants offer.”

The Auld House pub and restaurant in Moneyreagh also benefitted from the Rural Shopfront Scheme. Stephen Grey, owner of The Auld House, used the grant to restore and refresh the outside of the building. This included replacing fascia and guttering, and repainting. 

Stephen noted: “The opportunity to avail of a Rural Shopfront Scheme grant came at just the right time for us as we knew that the exterior of the building needed a bit of a facelift, and it was work we were planning to do. 

“I’m really pleased with the results and feel that the outside of The Auld House now reflects the character of the inside. It also hasn’t gone unnoticed by customers, and we’ve had a number of compliments on how well the building is looking and the fact that it helps brighten up the whole road.”

The closing date for Expressions of Interest to either the Rural Investment Fund, Heritage Shopfront Scheme or the Rural Shopfront Scheme is Friday 22nd March 2024 at 5pm.

For more information about each of these schemes, please click here or email Mary Kerr at 

The Rural Investment Fund, Rural Shopfront Scheme and Heritage Shopfront Scheme are part of LCCC’s Covid Recovery Small Settlements Regeneration Programme, funded through the Department for Communities, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Infrastructure.