Defra have recently announced £200m of new activity under the Rural Development Programme socio-economic schemes.
- £30m to improve rural broadband – the grants available will encourage growth by helping provide broadband services at speeds of 30Mbps or faster where this is not available or planned. It will supplement existing Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport investment in rural broadband.
- £45m to help rural businesses grow and invest in new equipment – rural businesses, including those engaged in tourism and food production, can apply for funding to invest in their company, helping them to expand, diversify, and invest in new technology.
- £120m for projects that improve farm productivity – this money will help farmers, foresters and landowners manage their land more effectively. Funding will be available for a wide range of purposes, including woodland management equipment, creating on-farm reservoirs and using water more efficiently.
The first two schemes to launch are Countryside Productivity Water Resource Management grants and Improving Forestry Productivity grants.
These opened on 31 July 2017 and will close to applications on 3 April 2018.
The Water Resource Management grants are to improve farm and horticultural productivity through more efficient use of water for irrigation, and to secure water supplies for crop irrigation by the construction of on-farm reservoirs.
The Forestry grants are to improve forestry productivity through felling, extraction and adding value by primary processing of timber products.
The minimum grant request in each case is £35,000.
Further information, including handbooks, application forms and guidance is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/countryside-productivity-scheme
In addition, the RDPE Growth Programme which opened in January 2017 remains open to applications. The Growth Programme provides funding for projects in England which create jobs and growth in the rural economy. Under the RDPE Growth Programme, there are currently calls for projects open for: business development, food processing and rural tourism infrastructure.
Full details about the funding announcement made on 29 July 2017 are available in a press release here: www.gov.uk/government/news/200-million-boost-for-rural-england