More details have emerged of new rural development schemes worth £3.5bn to the English countryside.
The new Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) was formally agreed by the European Commission last month and will help people to set up businesses in rural areas.
Under the programme, the government will be investing at least £3.5bn in rural development schemes until 2020, confirms the latest Defra update. About £2.1bn will be spent on existing environmental schemes. The remainder of the money will be spent through the new RDPE, which is made up elements such as Countryside Stewardship; Countryside Productivity and Growth Programme.
About £900 million will be spent on Countryside Stewardship, which will help rural businesses improve the countryside environment. Guidance for Countryside Productivity is being published on the government’s GOV.UK website during March, said Defra. Potential applicants will ask for ideas for projects which the scheme could support. The full application process for grant funding will open later in 2015. Under the Growth Programme, £177 million will go to people and business to help them support their local rural economy. Grants will be available for starting up a business, developing a business, tourism, renewable heat and energy projects.
From 2016, there will also be grants for broadband investments. These will be linked to Local Broadband Plans developed by local authorities. Funding will be allocated to local action groups (LAGs) in order to create jobs and growth in rural areas, mainly via small grants. Through the LEADER element of the RDPE 2014–2020, £138m will be available to local businesses, farmers, foresters, land managers and communities.