A new £110m Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) which will support projects that will boost the rural economy and create jobs has been unveiled.
The fund is a rural top-up for the £2.6bn UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). The money has been allocated to make sure that efforts to support productivity and prosperity in the parts of the country that need it most extend into the countryside.
Defra says the fund will provide investment to help boost rural businesses and upgrade community facilities.
This is similar to the LEADER and Growth Programme grants which were funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), as part of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF).
Farms looking to diversify could be beneficiaries with grants likely to be available to help convert farm buildings to other uses, including visitor accommodation or events spaces.
The fund is also likely to offer:
- capital grants for provision of gigabit-capable digital infrastructure at hubs such as village halls, pubs and post offices for community use
- capital grants to develop, restore or refurbish local natural, cultural and heritage assets and sites.
- creation of new footpaths and cycle paths, particularly in areas of health need, or capital grants to enable people to develop volunteering and social action projects locally.
Defra has said it hopes the new rural fund will help to address the rural productivity gap and help to level-up opportunities in the countryside.
The government has recently published a Delivering for Rural England report which concludes that while progress has been made in areas such as improving digital connectivity and tackling rural crime, the productivity rate in rural areas has fallen behind the England average.
The Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) will be available from April 2023 to March 2025 and will be delivered by local authorities.