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EU funding for rural projects guaranteed

Posted 15/11/2016 : By: Madeleine Mitchell

A recent government announcement has brought certainty that European funding is guaranteed to the point at which the UK departs the EU. This is good news for rural businesses in Norfolk and north Suffolk as it means they can continue to benefit from a £9m European funding initiative managed by Norfolk County Council’s Rural Programmes Team.

This funding is from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) delivered via Defra. In the UK this fund is managed by the Rural Payments Agency and distributed via the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

The Local Action Groups (LAGs) deliver this funding under the ‘Leader’ approach, decentralising the decision and funding powers allowing the partnership to support the rural economy at a local level. The LAG is made up of representatives from businesses, community organisations and public authorities, and plans to help micro and small businesses and community organisations create and sustain employment within the respective LAG area.

Cllr Stuart Clancy, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Economic Sub-Committee, said: “The Leader programme is very important in helping to stimulate the region’s rural economy so confirmation that EU funding will continue despite the referendum result is extremely welcome. All approved projects will be fully funded, even if they continue beyond the UK's departure from the EU.”

The Rural Payments Agency will still have responsibility for the allocation of RDPE funds and has applied two conditions to future funding: that projects continue to provide good value for money, and are in line with domestic policies.

Further confirmation is expected of specific arrangements for the Leader programme in due course, but it is not expected that changes in conditions will disrupt committed projects, and all projects currently working through the application process will be guaranteed payment if they receive approval.

Andy Thorpe, Norfolk County Council’s Local Action Group Manager, said: “We have had a good first year despite disruptions to delivery of the programme since June’s Brexit vote. We have the green light to carry on, and want to see more projects coming forward so that we allocate 100% of our grant funding.”

Since Norfolk and north Suffolk’s Leader programme started in November 2015, the five LAGs (Brecks, Broads, Waveney Valley, Wensum and Coast and West Norfolk) have awarded £692,463 to 18 rural businesses, some of which are listed below:

Buxton Potato Company, Buxton
has been awarded £13,866 by the Broads LAG to add value to the potato crop by introducing a new potato processing facility on the farm. The project will further enhance the established ‘Buxton Potato Company’ brand introducing new product lines to the business enabling it to serve the increasing demand of its customers whilst providing the business with greater stability in an otherwise volatile market. The initial raw-product will be from the ‘ugly potatoes’ grown on the farm.

Branthill Farm Micro-brewery, Wells received funding to set up a new brewery using a redundant barn, which will complement the real ale shop set up 10 years ago and a micro-maltings created three years ago. £22,347 was awarded to the business by Wensum and Coast LAG.

Belmont Nursery, Terrington St Clement was awarded funding of £33,155 by West Norfolk LAG to enable this cut-flower and bulb growing business to make better use of rainwater collected on the glasshouses, thus reducing the need for extraction by beneficially working in collaboration with neighbouring businesses.

Sunset Barn Care Farm, Lakenheath
received support to erect purpose built accommodation for farm helpers, volunteers and staff who attend the Care Farm. The new building will enable the services provided to increase to five days a week, allowing more people to attend at a time and for some activities to be carried out at weekends. The project was awarded £68,190 by the Brecks LAG.

Waveney Valley Business Park, Bungay will create a new business incubator hub under the Waveney Valley brand, converting an existing disused agricultural building into eight units for local micro and small businesses. The project has been granted £51,107 by the Waveney Valley LAG.

Steve Cundy, MD of Waveney Valley Business Park, said: “Many people find the process of applying for grant funding too daunting and tend to let the opportunity pass them by. I really cannot recommend the Leader project team enough, they made the whole process manageable and were extremely helpful from the outline application right through to the full application stage. Grab these opportunities with both hands while you can and put your business in a position to grow and expand for the future.”

There is more funding available for projects as the total funding available is £9m. Rural businesses, including those involved in agriculture and forestry as well as rural community organisations, can find out more about their LAG and how to apply for funding at www.norfolklags.co.uk

The Local Action Groups (LAGs) deliver this funding under the ‘Leader’ approach, which means that LAGs enlist the energy and resources of local people and organisations in public, private and third sectors, through forming a partnership. This decentralises the decision and funding powers to the local level presenting a ‘bottom-up’ approach.

The five respective LAG areas comprise:

  • The Brecks (including parts of northern Suffolk)
  • The Broads
  • Wensum and Coast
  • Waveney Valley (including parts of northern Suffolk)
  • West Norfolk

LEADER ("Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l'Économie Rurale"), meaning 'Links between the rural economy and development actions'), is a ‘bottom-up’ approach which enlists the energy and resources of local people who come together as an empowered group to develop an area.

This funding is from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) delivered via Defra (http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/rurdev/index_en.htm). In the UK this fund is managed by the Rural Payments Agency and distributed via the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

The overarching aims of the programme are to:

  • Contribute towards improving the environment and the quality of life in rural areas
  • Strengthen the rural economy by helping micro and small businesses to create and sustain employment within the area
  • Improve competitiveness, particularly in the agriculture and forestry sectors

More information can be found at www.norfolklags.co.uk

For political comment:
Cllr Stuart Clancy (Conservative) Chairman of the Economic Development Sub-Committee on 01603 754148
Cllr Colleen Walker (Labour) on 01493 782272
Cllr Jonathon Childs (UKIP) on 07899 037719 (text only)
Cllr John Timewell (Liberal Democrat) on 07717 881857
Cllr Andrew Boswell (Green) on 07787 127881

For further information please contact:
Communications Team at Norfolk County Council
Tel: 01603 228888
Email: pressoffice@norfolk.gov.uk