Two million pound boost for local rural economy

Farmers, foresters and rural businesses can now bid for a share of more than £2million which has been won for the area.

Winchester City Council and East Hampshire District Council have signed a joint working agreement in order to hand out the funding.

The programme officially started on Wednesday 4 March 2009 with a meeting of the local action group at the Sustainablility Centre near East Meon.

The funding has been earmarked to support the regeneration of rural communities, develop rural tourism and help further develop skills for small businesses in the area. It will also be used to enhance the rural environment and enable agricultural, forestry and woodland business to develop.

The bid for the £2million of funding, which is called LEADER funding, was submitted by the Fieldfare Local Action Group, which was supported by council officers and chaired by Sir James Scott of Rotherfield Park, in East Tisted.

Projects which will enhance the rural areas of the districts will be selected by the group and given financial support. The funds originate from the Common Agriculture Policy, so SEEDA wants it invested in the rural economy.

Cllr George Beckett, Leader of Winchester City Council, is looking forward to seeing the LEADER funding making a real difference to rural communities. He said: “LEADER funding is there for the benefit of our rural communities and economies, it really is an exciting opportunity. I would encourage all local rural businesses to think about their future plans during these difficult financial times, and to seriously consider applying for LEADER support. The Local Action Group is poised and ready to receive your expressions of interest.”

Richard Millard, the portfolio holder for business development at East Hampshire District Council, added: “At this difficult time for business and residents, the economy is a top priority for East Hampshire District Council. We have embarked on a series of practical measures to help keep businesses afloat and keep money flowing into our local economy. East Hampshire District Council is delighted to be supporting the Fieldfare Local Action Group and encourages businesses and communities to submit proposals.”

Andrew Gordon, the chair of the Fieldfare Local Action Group, is pleased to be part of this exciting scheme. He said: “We have a significant sum of money available to our rural communities and businesses and we want every penny to count in making Winchester and East Hampshire more sustainable places to live. We are all looking forward to seeing some excellent work as a result of the LEADER funding stream.”

Winchester City Council will be the accountable body for this funding, with the Fieldfare Local Action Group appraising applications and monitoring the progress of projects funded with LEADER money.

The money is available to applicants in the Winchester and East Hampshire districts, excluding the urban centres of Winchester city, Alton, Whitehill Bordon, Petersfield and Horndean.