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Rural Norfolk economy set to benefit from £9m investment

Posted 17/03/2015

Norfolk’s rural businesses are set for a boost of £9m, thanks to a successful bid for funding to Defra’s Leader programme by Norfolk County Council. 

The Leader programme will invest £9.014m of European funds into projects across the county over the next five years, with the programme benefitting the whole of rural Norfolk for the first time. The bids were developed by five Local Action Groups (LAGs) made up of a number of local stakeholders including businesses and communities. The groups are supported by the Economic Development and Strategy department at Norfolk County Council, to create jobs and business growth. The funding, which will be available from autumn 2015, aims to support economic growth activities such as increasing farm productivity, supporting micro and small rural businesses, farm diversification and rural tourism in the county. The Leader programme is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the European Union’s Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). The latest Leader bid follows on from the success of the 2007-2013 programme, which jointly funded 136 rural projects in the county, including expanding 45 micro enterprises, helping 19 farms to diversify and assisting 20 projects in their attempts to be water efficient. The previous programme operated through three Local Action Groups (LAGs), with Norfolk County Council successfully bidding for two further LAG areas for the 2014-2020 Leader programme period, due to the impressive track record of the previous programme.

The five LAGs that will work with business and community organisations to part-manage the funds in each area are: 

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

Each LAG operates by using the LEADER approach – which is community led local development, and is made up of local people from both public and private sectors. George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Following the positive impact that the previous Leader programme had in parts of Norfolk, it comes as no surprise to me that the County Council were awarded the chance to roll out the programme across the county for the next 5 years. The news that we have been successful in the grant application is a real boost for rural Norfolk and I look forward to seeing the impact on the county’s economy. Bev Spratt, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Economic Development Sub- Committee, said: “To receive this award for five local action groups increases funding coverage to 100% of rural Norfolk which is a significant achievement, and builds on the success of the previous programme.

“The new programme brings opportunities for businesses and organisations to apply for funding to help build capacity and stimulate economic growth across our rural landscape.” Pat Holtom, Chair of Waveney Valley LAG, said: "We are delighted to hear that we’ve been successful in our grant award request to Defra. This recognises the work contributed by local people, who have generously given their time over the past year to create a strong funding strategy. We very much look forward to working with the team at Norfolk County Council to deliver some strong projects and generate sustainable growth across all our successful LAG areas." All five LAGs are currently looking for projects that can be developed and ready to start in autumn 2015. Before applying, prospective applicants need to identify which LAG area their projects falls within, and read the Local Development Strategy, to see if their project fits with the funding priorities for the respective area.

Prospective applicants should complete a project enquiry form and email it to leaderteam@norfolk.gov.uk

If the project fits with funding priorities and criteria, projects will then be invited to apply.