01.04.2015 0 Comments

£3.2 million boost for rural businesses

£3.2 million boost for rural businesses

Ngage Solutions has been awarded £3.2 million LEADER funding to support farmers, foresters, rural businesses and communities. Grants of up to £50,000 will become available between 2015-2020 to support projects that create jobs, help businesses to grow and benefit the rural economy.

The accountable body for both the Chilterns and Clay Vales LEADER programmes, Ngage Solutions, will work in partnership with the two Local Action Group’s (LAGs) to deliver the funds which are part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), with the money coming via the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Clay Vales LEADER fund worth £1.72 million will cover Aylesbury Vale, rural Milton Keynes and South Northamptonshire. The aims of the programme are to help establish a thriving local rural economy underpinned by a strong tourism offer, high-quality local food businesses and enhanced agricultural and forestry productivity.

The Chilterns LEADER area broadly follows the outline of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), possibly the most heavily visited landscape in the UK with 55 million leisure visits a year. The fund, worth £1.5 million will aim to enhance farm productivity, support small and medium size businesses and farm diversification projects, strengthen rural tourism, culture and heritage, and forestry productivity.

Philippa Batting, Managing Director of Ngage Solutions says: “We are proud to have been awarded the contracts for the Clay Vales and Chilterns LEADER programmes, working in partnership with our Local Action Groups and rural businesses. Most importantly, we are delighted that the experience and knowledge gained through the successful delivery of the 2008-2013 LEADER programme can be further extended to help grow the rural economy into the future. In the 2008-2013 LEADER programme, projects delivered by Ngage were some of the most successful in the UK. 124 projects were awarded funding which in turn sustained 206 jobs, created 117 new jobs and helped launch 39 new businesses.”

David Campbell, Chair of the Clay Vales LEADER LAG says: “This is fantastic news for our rural economy, LEADER funding has proved to be the catalyst to help rural communities thrive in new ways that would not otherwise be possible. We greatly welcome being able to bring the LEADER programme to a wider community in this new phase.”

David Briggs, Chair of Chilterns LEADER LAG says: “We are delighted to have been awarded this new round of funding, especially as we know there is a real need within our local community. Due to the success of the last wave of LEADER funding we have already had expressions of interest from local businesses including farms looking to expand processing capabilities, diversify into farm shops and tea rooms, cycle hubs, tourism projects and forestry activity.”

Daniel Lacey of EJ Lacey & Sons, a LEADER beneficiary in the last round of funding explains: “Before we secured LEADER funding we had been bottling and labelling all of our milk by hand and our hard-working team just couldn’t keep up.” A £40,000 LEADER farm diversification grant enabled the dairy to install a fully mechanised bottling plant and purchase a new refrigerated delivery van to allow for a fourfold increase in home and shop deliveries, as well as increasing supplies to the farm shop.

Defra is still working up the application processes but it is anticipated that LEADER will be open for applications from early summer onwards, with the first grants being paid in early 2016.

For more information about whether your business may be eligible for a LEADER grant and for more information on the Chilterns and Clay Vale LEADER programmes, visit www.leader-programme.org.uk or call the team on 01494 568969.