Jason Ball @ Natureheads.com
A new pot of money has arrived for countryside communities. This week I attended the official launch by the North Wessex Downs Local Action Group for LEADER. They have £ 2.5 million to give away.
Special guest Richard Benyon MP
Richard Benyon MP came along to help promote the LEADER fund for the North Wessex Downs. As a landowner and farmer himself, he strongly encouraged fellow farmers to use the money as soon as possible, saying,
“Two and a half million pounds, particularly when the nation’s coffers are empty, is a lot of money.”
Mr Benyon believes that if the opportunity is wisely used, that this cash could help to stimulate “a new golden age for rural Britain…”
What’s LEADER all about?
This cash is available to farmers and landowners, woodland managers, and other rural businesses, or people starting up a new enterprise as well as community organisations. LEADER is a strand of European money that has been redirected from subsidising farm production, to boosting rural economy and sustainability.
North Wessex Downs Local Action Group for LEADER intend most of the money to be a capital boost – so think of it like Dragon’s Den on the telly – except they won’t be asking for a cut of your business!
Grants can be up to £50,000 -or- 50% of the capital costs.
The Local Action Group has put a strong emphasis on green tourism (‘opportunities to enjoy the North Wessex Downs’) and so I think that’s a perfect type of funding for projects that promote the natural history of the North Wessex Downs. Guided tour materials and interpretive trails, for example, or adventure holidays, perhaps developing some eco-friendly tourist accomodation at a farm.
Climate change adaptation and mitigation are prominent on the agenda. Projects that link countryside management with renewable energy or sustainable produce, for instance, will find themselves very popular with the North Wessex Downs Local Action Group! It is such a hard challenge to manage woodlands and make money, but there are people out there with great ideas – and now here’s a pot of cash for them to realise their ideas. Could it be you?
New and clever ideas for food and artisanal goods are encouraged. Setting up a new operation to market and trade local produce, or an enterprise to make new types of goods, are schemes that would be attractive to a local action group.
Food marketing and high-quality woodland produce are perhaps two key elements that connect economic diversification to an actively-managed countryside, and therefore more sustainable rural communities, able to work with the natural resources available to them.
Innovate to regenerate
The very best projects (and which I hope will get the most money) are those aiming to make connections between the countryside environment and the sustainability of not just a single business, but can also be seen to benefit the ‘health’ of the rural community.