Land and Property Professionals, Robinson & Hall advise that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced a new round of funding under the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, with a budget of £35 million guaranteed. This figure has the potential to increase to £50 million subject to receipt of a high number of quality applications. The overall aim of the programme is to generate growth in the rural economy by granting funding to those enterprises which demonstrate they have recognised ways in which their business could be improved.
Farmers are being encouraged by the government to use the funding to diversify their income by applying for grants aimed at rural start-ups or existing businesses to purchase high specification machinery and equipment to expand their enterprises and increase opportunities.
There are three specific sectors being targeted: business development, food processing and rural tourism infrastructure. This variety highlights the move towards diversification in order to progress and succeed in the rural sector but grants are also available to develop existing agricultural enterprises. The main national priorities for funding are to create jobs, grow businesses, improve productivity through innovation and open new product markets.
In previous years, the minimum threshold for grants has been £35,000 but this has now been reduced to £20,000 to make the funding more accessible to a wider range of businesses. Up to £750,000 is available for food processing businesses, while other rural businesses can apply for as much as £175,000.
There is a RDPE Growth Programme handbook available, which can be accessed here, www.gov.uk/government/publications/rdpe-growth-programme which contains details of eligible projects and the application process. During the last round of funding, the grants were used to construct and improve buildings, buy new equipment and for diversification projects, such as wedding venues. One example was a dairy business investing in a new processing unit which enabled them to produce higher quality fresh milk.
The Expression of Interest (EOI) window opened on Monday 4th November 2019 with a deadline of Sunday 16th February 2020. For those who may be interested we would recommend applying early as, in the previous round, applications were dealt with on a first come first served basis.
The EOI needs to be submitted to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and its purpose is to explain the concept and existing work of your business and how a grant could improve this. If the RPA are happy that the EOI is suitable, an offer to submit a full application will be made.
For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you, please contact Katie Cross, Apprentice Rural Surveyor on 01234 362935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org