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Rural Development Service Paves The Way For New Rural Funding Schemes
02/02/06

Changes to the current England Rural Development Programme were announced by the Rural Development Service today to pave the way for the next rural development funding programme.

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These changes are an important part of Defra's Rural Strategy 2004 to simplify funding for rural areas and better target it to the needs of rural people and businesses in each region.

To achieve this the current social and economic schemes, collectively known as the 'Project Based Schemes', will not be rolled forward into the next programme, which will run from 2007 to 2013, after the current ERDP closes at the end of this year.

Friday, 30 June 2006 will consequently be the last date on which new applications may be accepted under the Rural Enterprise Scheme, the Processing and Marketing Grant, the Vocational Training Scheme and the Energy Crops (SRC) Producer Group Scheme.

Customers who are currently in the process of developing a proposal for a business or community project with a view to seeking a grant from one of these schemes are strongly recommended to discuss their proposal with a representative from the Rural Development Service.

Defra will be commencing public consultation shortly on the priorities for the new programme.

The new programme will continue to provide funding for social and economic development in rural areas, but with responsibility for delivery planned to transfer from the Rural Development Service to England's Regional Development Agencies, who intend to introduce new funding arrangements, in line with regional priorities.

Environmental Stewardship, covering agri-environment funding under both current and new programmes, is not affected by these changes. However, its delivery will move from the Rural Development Service to Natural England, once that body is established.

Minister for Rural Affairs, Jim Knight, commented:

"We need to work towards implementing changes first announced as part of Rural Strategy 2004 in the delivery of grants to farmers, food businesses, rural communities and others. We are also taking the opportunity to introduce an updated approach to this type of funding under the successor arrangements to the England Rural Development Programme.

"We need to develop plans for the most effective use of this type of funding within the new programme running from January 2007 to December 2013. To assist us and our delivery partners in this process, we will be launching shortly a major public consultation exercise. This will give interested parties the opportunity to help shape the policy objectives on which the future social and economic funding should be focused.

"We also wish to maximise the opportunities presented by the intended delivery of the new programme's funding through the Regional Development Agencies. As recommended by Lord Haskins' review of rural delivery and endorsed by the Rural Strategy, this will involve simplifying the delivery arrangements for customers and taking advantage of the links with other rural development funding already being distributed by the Regional Development Agencies.

"At the same time, it is important that the momentum generated by the availability of this type of funding is not lost and from October onwards the Regional Development Agencies are planning to be working on the ground with potential customers on the development of projects suitable for support under the new programme."

It is particularly important that potential applicants understand how well their project meets the stated regional priorities, what level of supporting information is needed, and how long the process is likely to take. The closure date of 30 June for new applications for these grants has been set to allow sufficient time for all applications to receive a decision prior to the major changes outlined above.

Customers who are thinking of applying to one of these funding streams should contact their local RDS as soon as possible to discuss their ideas.

Area team contacts in the North East are:

Northumberland East:
Roxanne Walker (0191 229 5532) Debbie Charlton (0191 229 3093)

Northumberland West:
Adelle Rowe (0191 229 5537) Michael Patterson (0191 229 3091)

North Pennines:
Karen Purvis (0191 229 5526)

Durham East:
(includes Tyne and Wear) Evelyn Jack (0191 229 5496)

Tees Valley:
Andy Whitehead (0191 229 3072) John Gornall (0191 229 5494)

Energy Crops Producer Group Scheme:
Stephen Collins (0191 229 5529)

North East clinics are held on a regular basis to assist potential applicants through the process. In the first instance applicants should contact an adviser, who will discuss their ideas, advise on the most appropriate way forward and, if appropriate, book a slot at a clinic.

The administration of approved project cases under the Rural Enterprise Scheme, the Processing and Marketing Grant, the Vocational Training Scheme and the Energy Crops (SRC) Producer Group Scheme, is planned to transfer from the Rural Development Service to Regional Development Agencies at the end of September 2006. Agreement holders affected by this change can be assured that this will not result in any changes to the terms and conditions of the grant award; details of the revised administrative arrangements will be sent out nearer the time.

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DEFRA
Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs