Funding to boost Somerset’s rural economy

Funding facilitated by Somerset County Council totalling over £2 million is to become available for rural businesses, organisations, farmers and foresters to boost the local rural economy and create jobs.

The grant funding coming to Western Somerset and the Levels and Moors areas will be allocated by Local Action Groups, made up of community, public and private sector representatives, to align with the aims of their Local Development Strategies.

Organisations or individuals can bid for grants of between £2,500 and £35,000 and they must demonstrate that their project will create jobs, increase business growth and support the wider economy.

The funding has been made available to the Local Action Groups through the LEADER Programme 2015-2020 which is part of the European Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in Rural Areas.

The LEADER Programme aims to encourage economic development on a local level, from the ‘bottom up’. Projects to benefit from the funding must address the national and local priorities of the LEADER Programme and Local Development Strategies. These are to; increase farm productivity, support small enterprises and farm diversification, rural tourism, provision of rural services, cultural and heritage activity and increase forestry productivity.

Cllr David Hall, Cabinet Member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, said: “If you have an exciting business idea that will help boost growth in Western Somerset or the Levels and Moors area please get in touch. The funding could be used for equipment to expand a business, to improve a tourist location, provide equipment to improve animal health and wellbeing or for farm diversification projects. This is a fantastic opportunity to bid for funding that could be really beneficial to your business and the local rural economy.”

Somerset County Council acts as the Accountable Body for the LEADER Programme on behalf of DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency.

Grants are typically limited to 40 per cent of the eligible project costs.

To find out more about the grant funding please contact Laura Jensen on 01823 357105 or Anne-Marie Spalding on 01823 359242. Information about the LEADER programme and how to apply for a grant can be found at:  www.somersetleader.org.uk