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It's the final countdown!

Posted 28/08/2018 : By: Alice Goodrich

LEADER PROGRAMME UPDATE – FINAL APPLICATION DATES & DECISION MAKING MEETINGS ANNOUNCED

The RDPE LEADER Programme was originally due to run from early 2015 through to the end of December 2020 with a final financial closure in March 2021. Delays in the start of the programme, extended periods of Purdah, the Brexit result and the UK’s commitment to leave the EU on 29th March 2019 have all resulted in a curtailed delivery period. Despite this, as of today the 5 Local Action Groups (LAGs) for which Norfolk County Council is the Accountable Body (AB) have committed £5.3m to projects. This is from a total budget of £8.1m (recently increased due to an exchange rate revaluation). Another £600k+ is currently in appraisal with a total pipeline of potential projects amounting to £5.4m. This potential exceeds the budget by £2.6m. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) have instructed that funds should be exhausted within an AB’s area before any additional national funding can be sought. However, it is not anticipated that any national pot will be very large.

Following the Brexit decision, the RPA set a deadline for contracting projects of 29th March 2019. The RPA in an e-mail of 14th August reaffirmed that this would remain in place for LEADER and will not allow commitment until the end of 2020 as some other programmes will be able to do under the terms of the Treasury Guarantee. With this in mind it is now time to announce the remaining application deadline and meeting dates under the current funding. The timetable below allows time for projects to be contracted, appeals to be considered in the case of rejected applications and provides sufficient time for projects to be developed and appraised.

In short, a deadline for Expressions of Interest (EoI) will be set for 27th September and 15th November for Full Applications (FA). The last tranche of decision making meetings will be held in mid-February (dates to be confirmed). This does allow a small window for plugging funding gaps with projects that have been approved but for which funding was not available. EoI and FA deadlines prior to the new dates still apply and applicants are recommended to submit applications as soon as possible.

The timetable for applications will now be as follows:-

*Applicants should be aware that they cannot start their project until they are fully contracted and should set start dates for a minimum of 10 working days after the decision making meeting at which their project is being presented.

**Applicants should note that if your project requires planning permission or special licencing then this must be in place and should be evidenced when submitting your application.

With the strong pipeline of projects that we already have and the likely influx of applications that will follow this announcement, it is highly likely that grants requested in Full Applications will exceed the remaining budgets. It does mean applications will need to be as strong as possible to have the best chance of achieving funding – achieving programme outputs such as job creation and relevance to Local Development Strategies will be important and our facilitation team can give advice on this.

Whilst the Rural Payments Agency tell us that any national pot of additional funds will be small history tells us that budget positions are fluid and there are reasons to be optimistic; additional funds could become available from other areas, underspend can make more budget available and not all applications in the pipeline will materialise.

The possibility of a grant is a fantastic opportunity for all applicant groups and one not to be missed! Please spread the message amongst your contacts and customers.

For more information please visit our website www.norfolklags.co.uk or give us a call on 01603-222930.