Almost 300 rural towns and villages are set to benefit from over €21m in funding announced today under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

The funding is the second tranche of funds to be announced by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The scheme is part of the Government's Action Plan for Rural Development, which has been criticised for the level of aid being offered.

After strong criticism of the derelict state of dozens of villages and towns around the country, the Government has now committed over €30m to renewal projects.

281 centres with populations under 5,000 will benefit, with the focus on kick-starting economic activity.

There was criticism of the scale of the first scheme, with just €10m available.

Minister for Community and Rural Affairs Michael Ring said €21.6m will be put into this year's scheme.

Funding awarded to individual towns and villages this year generally ranges from €20,000 to €100,000, with 50 projects receiving €100,000 for more ambitious proposals.

The Government announcement came in advance of a Dáil debate on a Fianna Fáil bill that would ease the planning restrictions around developing homes on the upper floors of older and commercial properties, potentially making 20,000 new homes available.