22 December 2016
Following the political turmoil resulting from the EU Referendum, there was uncertainty as to whether LEADER funding for rural businesses would continue, as this is an EU programme. The good news is that it has now been confirmed that businesses and communities in the rural areas of Wealden and Rother will continue to have the opportunity to apply for EU funding totalling £1.472 million, at least until 30th September 2018.
The Wealden and Rother Rural Partnership, one of 80 LEADER groups across England, will continue to provide grants to small businesses, farmers, foresters and communities towards capital projects that create jobs and grow the rural economy.
Through a competitive process, the Partnership determines which projects will be funded; its members are local people and organisations with a deep knowledge of rural issues and their communities.
During the last 12 months, despite delays, the WARR Partnership has agreed funding for 12 rural projects totalling £304,626. This will help to create over 18 full-time equivalent jobs, and is leading to over £1 million being invested in small businesses and communities (including matched private sector funding). Projects funded so far have included a new farm shop and café, mobile sheep handling and performance monitoring equipment, a grape press, timber harvesting equipment, a new oast, farm diversification into equine holiday lets and a farm shop extending into wholesale production of pies and pasties. The funding fits well with the objectives of the Restocking the Weald Project, which is seeking to establish viable new livestock enterprises on under-utilised pasture across the High Weald.
Hamish Monro, Chairman of the WARR Partnership said,
We have had over 160 expressions of interest from a wide range of rural businesses and community organisations and now we are certain the LEADER programme will continue until at least September 2018, we anticipate many more rural businesses and community organisations will benefit from grants through the WARR Partnership. We were one of the first LEADER groups nationally to launch and we are well placed to assist applicants to develop their businesses and communities.
LEADER funding, which forms part of Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), channels support from the Common Agricultural Policy budget to rural enterprises. Plumpton College is managing the delivery of the WARR Partnership LEADER programme, supported by Rother and Wealden District Councils, and East Sussex County Council. Jeremy Kerswell, Principal, said,
The College is delighted to hear that the LEADER programme is continuing, as assisting rural businesses with grant funding fits perfectly alongside the support through training and advice we provide to land based and rural businesses.
Since the original 400-acre College farm was bought back in 1919, Plumpton College has certainly seen a lot of changes.