Businesses in Rutland and Peterborough have benefited from more than £1 million funding from the regional LEADER programme – a European Union and DEFRA-funded grant scheme.
In total, the LEADER programme has helped 27 projects in the area which are on track to create 40 jobs and has leveraged a total of £2.5 million worth of investment into the rural economy.
The projects have shown the diversity of the rural economy and have included projects such as the construction of an equestrian centre, a farm shop and educational centre, the purchase of boats, direct drills, fertiliser spreaders and beekeeping equipment, as well as building campsite facilities right through to refurbishing village halls and converting barns into holiday lets.
Launched in 2015, the LEADER Programme set out to improve the competitiveness of farming and forestry whilst also supporting small business growth, community infrastructure, and boosting productivity in rural areas.
Throughout the process, the fund has been overseen by the Local Action Group (LAG). The LAG is made up of 13 volunteers from the public, private and third sectors who evaluated funding applications and gave approval for grants. As the funding could only partially cover the cost of a project, applicants could bid for grants worth between £2,500 – £50,000, or in exceptional cases up to £75,000.
To be successful a project had to contribute to one or more of the six LEADER priorities:
- Support micro and small businesses and farm diversification
- Boost rural tourism
- Increase farm productivity
- Increase forestry productivity
- Provide rural service
- Provide cultural and heritage activities
Dennis Stanley, Chair of the LAG , said: “It’s been a real privilege to have worked on the Rural Peterborough and Rutland LEADER Programme. I’ve been absolutely blown away with the variety of projects we’ve seen and the tenacity of applicants who have persevered with a very rigorous application process. It really is a testament to the resilience of rural enterprise that we’ve been able to allocate the full £1 million. There’s a fine balance to strike with support for urban centres and rural areas so the country flourishes as a whole. I hope that the success of the LEADER programme will be used by government to develop future initiatives for boosting the rural economy.”
Councillor Oliver Hemsley, Leader of Rutland County Council, said: “We are delighted to have seen more than half a million pounds go to help a wide range of business projects here in Rutland. LEADER has shown us just how innovative and entrepreneurial our local business community can be. It’s been truly amazing to see and share details of the many various projects and people that have been supported by LEADER – from pottery artists and optometrists, to farmers, camp sites and village halls.”