The North Wessex Downs LEADER Programme has now completed its current round of funding awards. In total, £1.419m has been awarded to 64 different projects - to farmers, foresters, small businesses and rural communities across the North Wessex Downs. Combined with match funding, the LEADER team have facilitated a total investment in the area of more than £3 million since the Programme began in 2009. Over the last four years the programme has focused on four themes:
Farming, food and forestry - £598k has been awarded to 25 farming and forestry related businesses via farm modernisation, farm diversification and woodland management projects.
Business transformation and community development - a further £377k has helped create and develop other small rural businesses. At least 59 existing enterprises have benefitted either directly or indirectly and the programme has helped start five new businesses. Over £194k has been spent on projects to help develop and improve community services and facilities.
Challenges and opportunities for climate change - 13 projects have involved sustainable woodland management or renewable energy. All the projects are encouraged to be as sustainable as possible, for example in how they manage waste and use energy.
Enjoying the North Wessex Downs - £162k has helped 12 tourism related projects either by developing attractions or by creating holiday accommodation. Another six projects involved improvements to our cultural heritage.
The vast majority (81%) of the grant money awarded should help grow the economy - developing business, creating jobs, improving competitiveness and encouraging tourism. The grants will help create at least 35 new jobs and safeguard another 81.
The Local Action Group is now looking at options for securing future funding under the next Rural Development Programme, which is anticipated to start during 2015 and will run until 2020. Over the next few months LEADER will be working with partners and other rural stakeholders to develop ideas and agree a way forward.