Focus on funding the rural economy

Press Release: 25/03/2014

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In 2007 a group of local people interested in supporting rural communities formed a partnership called the Fieldfare Local Action Group.

Members of the group come from farming, business, community, education and local government backgrounds.

The group secured a share of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to deliver the first ever five-year Winchester and East Hampshire LEADER project.

The LEADER approach is a community-led participatory process of indentifying local enterprise, community and environmental needs. There are currently 64 Local Action Groups operating across England.

David Webb is the Chair of the group. He owns a rural business and is the Federation of Small Business National Rural Affairs Policy Chair.

David said:

This group of mainly volunteers has achieved incredible results. Providing £1.7m-worth of grants to 134 projects enabled small businesses to create 126 new jobs. The value of these projects to the local rural economy exceeds £11m. We know that we can do more and we will continue to develop opportunities that secure funds for local communities. You now have a chance to influence plans for the next LEADER project. I welcome the involvement of businesses, farmers and rural communities in helping us draft the next strategy.

The group is now preparing to bid for the next round of rural development funding that will enable them to build upon this success.

Ken Brown, Programme Manager, said:

With a similar amount of funding available from January 2015, we want to hear first-hand about the ambitions, challenges and opportunities for our local rural farmers, businesses and communities and the investments they would love to make. Funds will be limited and it is essential that people engage in the strategy to ensure that they don’t miss out.

Any business or community project located in a rural setting that employs fewer than 10 people could be eligible to apply for rural development funding. Each Local Action Group (LAG) operates in a defined geographical area. The Fieldfare LAG currently supports Winchester and East Hampshire and has drawn up plans to operate across South Hampshire in future.

Anyone with an interest in rural issues can become involved in the focus groups. The groups are exploring the economies associated with:

  • Farming
  • Fisheries and marine
  • Forestry and wood
  • Local food and drink
  • Rural community services
  • Small businesses
  • Tourism

For more details about the group and how to get involved in the emerging strategy, please contact Ken Brown on 07980 732 036 or Jo Anderson 01962 848 311 www.Fieldfareleader.org.uk