You could be forgiven for thinking that smaller, rural areas such as ours risk being overlooked when it comes to funding for local business development, in favour of the bright lights of cities elsewhere in the country.
However, I’m pleased to champion a new grant opportunity coming our way, specifically for the Kesteven areas.
A superb ‘LEADER’ programme means support could be available for small businesses, micro businesses (fewer than 10 employees), farm diversification, rural tourism, farm and forestry productivity, provision of rural services, and cultural and heritage activity.
Interestingly, LEADER stands for the French ‘Liaison Entre Actions de Developpement de L’economie Rural’ and I’m sure you’ll agree that the great potential within our district, and many of our excellent local businesses and other services, carry a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ deserving of such backing.
It’s therefore a case of heading to our ‘action stations’ to help ensure this money comes in our direction and I recently organised and took part in a presentation to Bourne Business Club, informing members about the programme and gathering views about how funding could be used.
The first of two consultations was held at Stoke Rochford Hall, bringing together 50 people from the local business, farming and community sectors to draw out the area’s character and define opportunities for growth. Another chance to find out more and discuss priorities and ideas is taking place on 30 July at Leasingham Village Hall, 4pm - 6pm. To book your place, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01522 550637.
The next step is to create a Local Action Group (LAG). As a result of Lincolnshire County Council securing an initial £120,000 to support existing LAGs, including £20,000 for a new one in the Kesteven areas, the group is now being set up to develop and write the local strategy. With the support of the council, and South Kesteven and North Kesteven District Councils, we’ll submit this as a bid to Defra. Whilst there’s no guarantees, this will hopefully bring rural development money to our area for January.
A positive sign - Lincolnshire has been successful in the past. Between 2007 and 2013, £6.9m was given to areas within East Lindsey, Northern and Southeast Lincolnshire, directly resulting in 120 jobs being created. If our next bids are successful, each area could receive between £1.5m and £2m to benefit communities, with an emphasis on rural jobs and growth.
There’s also a survey where everyone can contribute views and help shape funding. Visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk and type ‘Rural Development Funding Lincolnshire LEADER Survey’ in the search box or call Jo Finlow at the county council on 01522 550636 to complete it over the phone.