Rural land and business owners should make sure they don’t miss out on funding that becomes available this summer through the LEADER scheme which is operated by various different local action groups (LAGs) across England.
Thats the warning from Mark Russell, a rural partner at the Cambridge office of national property consultancy Carter Jonas, who explains that one of the problems with the scheme is that the various delivery bodies have quite complex geographical boundaries.
Its necessary to do a quite detailed search of the maps to ensure what LAG covers which areas and around Cambridge its possible that it could be one of four areas, although a large area including the city and land to its south west that also takes inNewmarket and Bury St Edmunds to the east has no LAG at all, says Mr. Russell.There are five LAGs covering Norfolk and another two around Peterborough and into the Fens.
Money is allocated from the Rural Development Programme for England and grants of up to50,000 may be available for schemes, particularly those that bring job creation and strengthen the rural economy. There is a proviso that the rest of the scheme must be funded from the applicants private funds or bank lending but not through other grant schemes such as the NationalLottery or via the Basic Payment Scheme.
Applicants must also have interim funding for the project in place before work starts as theLEADER scheme payments arrive once the project is completed, which could be a major hurdle.
Eligibility varies around the country. LAGs decide which projects they will fund in their area. This depends on their priorities but all projects must support one or more of the six LEADER priorities to:
- Support micro and small businesses and farm diversification
- Boost rural tourism
- Increase farm productivity
- Increase forestry productivity
- Provide rural services
- Provide cultural and heritage activities
LEADER in its current phase lasts until 2020 and its important that those with potentially qualifying schemes do not neglect its possibilities as LAGs get down to work, adds Mr Russell.
The slow broadband speeds still endured in many rural areas can make even downloading the maps to show geographic coverage a lengthy process. As each body works to its own website design its not always straightforward discovering information for applicants close to or straddling boundaries. My advice is to persevere as this funding really could be a lifeline for projects that fail to qualify for aid in other rural schemes.
More information, including a boundary map for the different schemes, can be found at https://www.gov.uk/rural-development-programme-for-england-leader-funding