Rural businesses and organisations in Cumbria are set to benefit from over £5 million of Government and European funding over the next five years.
The LEADER programme funding, which is expected to create up to 200 jobs in rural areas of the county, is part of the Rural Development Programme for England, and is being funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the European Union (EU).
Grants will be available to support the rural economy with a particular focus on increasing farm productivity, developing micro and small enterprises and farm diversification, rural tourism, rural services, cultural & heritage activity and increasing forestry productivity.
The funding is being administered by the Fells & Dales, and Solway, Border and Eden Local Action Groups (LAGs), each covering a specific area and focused on issues that matter most to their local economies and communities.
The Cumbrian LAGs have, in total, received over £5.2m of RDPE funding – £2.261m for Solway, Border and Eden and £3.008m for Fells & Dales.
Fells and Dales Local Action Group joint chairs, John Turner of Lonsdale Estates and Steve Ratcliffe of the Lake District National Park Authority, said: “The new LEADER programmes will continue to support businesses, communities, farming and forestry in the county’s rural areas in ways which respect both its distinctiveness and diversity, and helps build stronger, more resilient rural communities.”
Solway, Border and Eden Local Action Group chair Brian Armstrong, a local farmer who also represents The Farmer Network, said: “We are looking for innovative ideas and projects, with co-operative and partnership working, which will be a springboard for job creation and economic growth.”
Cumbria County Council will be the accountable body for the LEADER programme, ensuring successful, compliant delivery of the programmes on behalf of the LAGs and employing the delivery staff within its economic programmes team.
Councillor David Southward, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: “Cumbria has a strong track record on previous LEADER programmes, delivering more grants and creating more jobs in the previous phase than anywhere else in the country. The LEADER programme plays a vital role in supporting future growth and the county council is delighted to continue as the accountable body, overseeing the programme for the next five years.”
Applications for LEADER funding to support projects are now being invited, with an initial focus on tourism development, farm diversification and micro and small business development.
Grants are available for:
- Rural businesses and communities seeking to invest in recreational and small scale rural tourism projects, such as new and existing visitor attractions and accommodation, innovative technology, events and festivals and small scale infrastructure.
- Micro and small rural enterprises, to support investments that establish and grow rural enterprises, support improvements in productivity and efficiency, including support for community and social enterprises.
- Farm diversification – new and expansion of existing diversifications into non-standard farming, adding value to the farm produce and into non-farming activity.
The LEADER programme funding is part of the Rural Development Programme for England, and is being funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the European Union (EU) through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
LEADER is a well-established method of providing European Rural Development Programme (RDP) funding at the local level. LEADER is a (French) acronym which roughly translates as ‘Links between the rural economy and development actions’.
The Solway, Border & Eden (SBE) area covers a large area of northern Cumbria, comprising the predominantly lowland areas of the West Cumbria and Solway coastal plain and parts of the Eden Valley, extending to the more sparsely populated North Pennines uplands in the east.
The Cumbria Fells and Dales area will correspond to both of the National Parks, plus the remainder of South Lakeland District (including rural actions based in Kendal), Upper Eden, and Penrith and beyond and the Millom peninsula.
During the previous EU programming round (2007-2013), Solway, Border and Eden and Cumbria Fells and Dales Local Action Groups (LAGs) delivered RDPE funding in Cumbria with a total grant budget of £15 million. Grants were awarded to farms, foresters, small businesses and rural communities across the LAG area. Combined with match-funding the programmes facilitated a total investment of more than £30 million. The investment supported over 350 projects, created 321 jobs and safeguarded 112 jobs. It also delivered 15,000 training days to 12,627 beneficiaries.
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