The latest round of grant funding under the government’s Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) has been announced, with funding earmarked to support rural broadband projects.
For the first time under the £200m grant scheme, for rural businesses based in the English countryside, specific funding will be made available for projects to improve broadband and connectivity.
The government will make £30m available for projects to improve broadband services at speeds of 30Mbps (or faster) in rural areas.
Also included in the latest Rural Development Programme funding round will be £45m to help small rural firms, including tourism and food producing businesses, grow and invest in equipment and machinery.
Meanwhile, £120m will be made available to help small farming businesses improve productivity, with grants going to support farmers, foresters and landowners manage their projects and become more efficient.
Funds are likely to be used for a wide range of purposes, which could include buying equipment for woodland management, creating reservoirs and making more efficient use of water.
Announcing the latest round of funding under the RDPE, rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner said: “One in three businesses in this country are based in the countryside, and this government is committed to providing the support they need to create a strong and prosperous rural economy.”
Under the RDPE, the government intends to invest at least £3.5bn into rural UK economies by 2020, creating around almost 7,000 new jobs. So far under the scheme, grants have been used to fund over 1,400 projects, which are expected to have created 2,300 jobs.
The first grant funding – expected to be available as of 30 July – will be reservoirs and equipment for forestry projects. Funding for broadband, rural business support, food processing, arable and horticultural productivity and resource efficiency will come available later in 2017, when a further £6.6m will be available for animal health and welfare projects.
According to a government statement, all project grants agreed under the RDPE before Britain leaves the EU will be guaranteed for the lifetime of the project.
Gardiner added: “This funding will make sure businesses in remote locations can get online, help farmers install cutting-edge technology, create new tourist hotspots and bring high quality jobs to rural communities across the country.”
Farmers set to benefit from £120m fund for rural businesses
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