A special fund, set up to encourage investment in rural areas has launched a second call for applications in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area.

Fifteen local businesses have already received financial support from Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Rural Investment Fund. One of these is Keane’s Deli in Royal Hillsborough which has been able to both grow its business and employ three new staff members.

Renowned for its culinary creations, Keane’s Deli has expanded its presence in the village - using the funding to convert a unit within the disused basement of a former motorbike shop into a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Following the success of the Fund, the council is opening a second call for expressions of interest for businesses already located, or looking to locate within the eligible small towns and villages across the council area. These ‘small settlements’ must have a population of between 1,000 and 4,999 and include Aghalee; Anahilt; Ballinderry; Dromara; Drumbeg; Glenavy; Royal Hillsborough; Maghaberry; Milltown; Moira and Moneyreagh.

Councillor John Laverty, Chair of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Regeneration and Growth Committee said: “We are encouraging greater investment in rural areas by attracting new businesses into vacant properties, or helping them make better use of the space they already have. 

“The Rural Investment Fund provides great opportunities for firms wanting to move forward with capital projects. It has already helped stimulate the economy in small towns and villages by inspiring business owners to bring derelict or underused properties back to life. I look forward to seeing what further projects emerge from this second round of applications.”

The transformation of Keane’s new premises has allowed them to expand their operations and scale up production to meet the increasing demand from customers. Owner, Ann Keane, said: “Thanks to the Fund, we were able to transform the workshop and equip it with modern kitchen appliances, top-of-the-line culinary tools and a carefully-crafted layout. We appreciate the financial help provided to our small family business and would urge others to apply."

The Rural Investment Fund is part of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Covid Recovery Small Settlements Regeneration Programme, which is funded through the Department for Communities, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Infrastructure. The scheme provides funding at 80% of total works costs, up to a maximum grant of £30,000 (ex VAT), depending on the size of business premises.

The deadline to submit an expression of interest to the Rural Investment Fund is Wednesday 19th July at 5pm. For more information go to www.lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk/smallsettlements or email Mary Kerr at mary.kerr@lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk