The approach, known as LEADER, will give local communities power to support projects in their own area, building on the Government’s devolution commitments under its Rural Productivity Plan.
Projects previously funded include villages benefiting from heritage funding to boost tourism, farmers diversifying into farm shops, ice cream parlours and camping sites and local food producers of cheese and meats supported to expand their product lines.
Commenting ahead of a speech in London to successful Local Action Groups, Farming Minister George Eustice said: “We want to grow our rural economy, which is why we’re making funding available to local communities so they can invest in projects to bring more jobs and enterprise to their areas.”
Following a competitive selection process, 80 Local Action Groups covering 85% of rural England, and made up of local businesses and voluntary groups, will be able to allocate money to rural businesses and kick-start new projects to deliver local jobs and growth.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) manages the LEADER scheme nationally and will make payments to successful applicants. Chief Executive of the RPA Mark Grimshaw added: “The great thing about the scheme is the level of collaboration between government and local communities. We have a common purpose and a strong belief that we can work in partnership to allow the rural economy to grow.
“But this is all about local delivery using local knowledge, and I am looking forward to working with the 80 Local Action Groups, using the experience that the agency has in administering similar schemes, over the lifetime of the LEADER to make a real world difference to rural communities.”
This approach builds on August’s announcement by the Chancellor and the Environment Secretary on the Government’s first ever Rural Productivity Plan which will boost productivity and ensure the countryside becomes an even more attractive place for people to live, work, start a business and bring up a family.
Already hundreds of rural businesses and communities across England have benefited from LEADER funding available through the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme.
Rural entrepreneurs have used the funding for farm diversification, to boost forestry productivity, promote tourism and support cultural heritage. Examples include:
Town Farm in Ivinghoe is a working farm at the foot of the Chiltern Hills boasting around 1,000 sheep. Its owners successfully received funding to expand their business and they are now welcoming guests to their camping and caravanning site each year.
JDB Forestry Contractors
JDB forestry contractors near Eversley received funding to purchase a new tractor and rotating wood splitter to boost the productivity and energy efficiency of its woodchip, biomass energy business.
Caroline’s Dairy in Sidlesham now generates additional income from ice cream made using milk from the family farm. The funding the owners received enabled them to invest in new equipment, including an ice cream tricycle and freezer van to expand their production and sales.