Community projects across Aberdeenshire are to receive over £500,000 in European funding.
Nine projects have been awarded grants by the Rural Aberdeenshire LEADER Programme, which is financed by the European Commission and Scottish Government.
Grants worth a combined £518,000 will be used to support projects across the area, including revamp of a play park in Methlick, building a new community facility in Turriff and opening a café at Balmedie Leisure Centre.
Funds have also been allocated to Aberdeenshire Council to test Whitespace technology in the area, which could in time improve broadband delivery in rural Aberdeenshire.
The money will be administered by the Rural Aberdeenshire Local Action Group (LAG), which will also support plans to build a new community hall in St Combs, while funding will also upgrade the toilets at Milne Hall in Kirkton of Skene.
Aberdeenshire LAG chairperson Belinda Miller said: “I am delighted that Aberdeenshire LEADER is supporting a wide range of rural community projects across the area.
“Some of the projects are also being supported by Aberdeenshire Council, but this funding is the catalyst that will enable these capital projects to proceed at an early opportunity.
“These successful applications will help to revitalise communities and stand in line with Aberdeenshire’s Community Planning priorities.”
Since 2008, almost £5 million has been pledged to more than 140 projects in Aberdeenshire, and this latest round of funding will help many of these community initiatives get off the ground.
James Hall, from the Methlick play park project said: "The LEADER grant means a huge amount to our local Methlick community and now puts us on target to start building in April 2013. The timing is perfect and we are very thankful for this funding.”
In addition to these infrastructure projects, the funding scheme will also support the Wilderness Foundation programme in Aberdeenshire, which gives young people hands-on skills in rural industries.
Funds from the initiative will also support the International Sheep Dog Trials which come to Aberdeenshire in 2013, while money will also help the Huntly Development Trust forge links for young people with a range of schemes in Finland and Italy.
Vicky Thomson, EU Rural and Fisheries Programmes Team Leader at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “In delivering the Aberdeenshire LEADER programme, it is evident there are key activators within our rural communities that use their professional skills in a voluntary capacity to enable robust community projects to be brought forward.
“If any further LEADER funds are identified for 2013, we would invite applications for projects which have match funding confirmed and the ability to be delivered by December 2013.”
In addition, £20,000 has been awarded to the Energitca project to deliver a coastal pathway linking traditional fishing villages around Collieston, Cruden Bay and Slains Castle. The money has been awarded from the Aberdeenshire European Fisheries Fund (AEFF) project, which provides funding for projects which promote the sustainable development of fisheries areas.
AEFF Co-ordinator, Ann Marie Macaskill, said: "The Energetica Coastal Path project represents a great opportunity to promote our abundant natural and maritime environment. The project will provide the ‘missing link’ in the existing Aberdeen to Peterhead coastal path and promote our rich fisheries heritage through installation of interpretation boards informing of fishing days gone by.
“The eco-tourism project is part of the wider Aberdeenshire Coastal path network which would extend from St Cyrus in the south of Aberdeenshire to Logie Head in the north; a distance of 146km.”
Details of all approved LEADER projects to date and information on the programme are available on the Rural Aberdeenshire LEADER website: www.aberdeenshireleader.org
Details of all approved AEFF projects to date and information on the programme are available on the AEFF website: http://www.aeff.co.uk/