Grants for Rural Tourism, Small Business Development and Food Processing now open to applications (deadline 16 February 2020)

Business Development, Food Processing and Rural Tourism Infrastructure grants are now open to new applications in England.

The scheme forms part of the Rural Development Programme for England, often abbreviated and referred to as RDPE.

The scheme has so far awarded £99 million to 546 local businesses across England, creating 3,771 new jobs in rural areas.

The overarching aim of the programme is to create jobs and growth in the rural economy.

For the 2020 funding round of the Growth Programme, the threshold for minimum grants has been reduced from £35,000 to £20,000 to enable more small or micro-businesses to apply for a grant. A small or micro business is classified as a business with between 1 and 49 employees.

A rural area is classified as a community with fewer than 10,000 residents.

The amount which can be applied for will depend on the size of the applicant’s business and where it is located.

The following funding strands are available:

1. Business Development grants are available to new and existing small and micro rural businesses (i.e. those with between 1 and 49 employees). This can include farmers who want to diversify into non-agricultural activity. Only small and micro businesses (and farmers who are diversifying) are eligible, and the project must be in a rural area. Examples of the type of project that may be supported are:

o Investment in equipment, and
o Farm diversification.

2. Food Processing grants are available to new and existing small and micro rural businesses in the  food and drink sector that process agricultural and horticultural products in rural or urban areas. For example, businesses working in the areas of:

o Meat processing.
o Milk processing, and
o Soft fruit processing.

3. Eligibility for Rural Tourism Infrastructure grants is as follows: (a) if the project is commercial and intended to make a profit, only small businesses and farmers who want to diversify may apply; (b) If the project is not expected to make a profit, a wide range of organisations may apply, including not-for-profits.

Rural Tourism Infrastructure grants can help fund the costs of capital expenditure on tourism infrastructure. The aim is to support projects that will encourage more tourists to come to a rural area, stay longer and to spend more money. Examples of possible projects are:

o New access infrastructure.
o Extending a local museum, and
o Capital investment in visitor attractions.

There is a two-stage application process for all of the above strands. The deadline for the submission of first stage (Expression of Interest or EoI applications) is 11.59pm on Sunday 16 February 2020.

Further information about the programme, including eligibility, guidance notes and the application process, is available on the GOV.UK website.

Image: Somerset Rural Life Museum is an example of a project that
could be eligible for funding under the Rural Tourism Infrastructure
grant strand of the RDPE Growth Programme. The museum is based
in Glastonbury, Somerset, which had a recorded population of 8,932
in the 2011 census and could therefore be eligible to apply for a grant.