England’s rural businesses will soon have access to funding worth £120m, as the government confirmed its commitment to supporting enterprise in the countryside.
Made available as part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, the fund aims to support local economies in England’s rural communities.
During a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference on 4 January, the environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom, stated that the fund would encourage the growth of new companies as well as helping to expand existing rural businesses, particularly those in the farming industry.
“A quarter of England’s businesses are based in the countryside and this funding will give rural startups, family-run businesses and farmers looking to diversify the boost they need.
“The RDPE has already supported a range of projects, from installing cutting-edge equipment to restoring flood plains, and the next round will help create more jobs, sell more products and help us access new markets”, Leadsom added.
Alongside other projects within the RDPE – such as investment in flood defence infrastructure – the government claimed that the funding would support the creation of 6,750 rural jobs.
The lower cost of land in rural locations has led to a recent rise in the number of countryside enterprises, as entrepreneurs spot more affordable business opportunities.
Research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that in the second half of 2016, a quarter of land purchases had been made by non-farmers.
Commenting on the rise of rural businesses, RICS head of policy, Jeremy Blackburn, warned that favourable market conditions needed to be met by government support.
He added: “Startup businesses do not have to be confined to the trendy streets of East London, Britain’s countryside has a great deal to offer young entrepreneurs.”
Despite an increase in the number of rural businesses, poor broadband connectivity remains a significant restraint on the prospects of such companies. In 2016 it was found that a majority of rural businesses remained without access to superfast broadband.
To combat this connectivity gap, the government recently announced a windfall of over £440m to support investment in broadband access for rural businesses through its Broadband Delivery UK project.
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