Nine rural development schemes have received a welcome cash boost from the EU resulting in dozens of new jobs for Cheshire residents.
Since its launch in November 2015 the Cheshire LEADER Programme, funded by the European Union, has granted £273,694 to the carefully selected regional projects.
It is part of a nationwide body set up to stimulate economic growth by providing money for rural businesses and organisations looking to begin or expand their operations.
A new equine centre and a rural children’s nursery, which will be converted from redundant farm buildings, are just some of the new developments set for Cheshire.
The first project that was approved for funding, a day care centre near Malpas, will be transformed from an old milking parlour and will see the creation of 21 jobs.
Vicky Hollins, who will manage Bradley Barns Nursery once it opens, said: “With the declining dairy sector and having a young family ourselves we have had to make the decision to diversify into another field.”
She explained that the current state of the agricultural industry would have made other forms of external investment difficult to achieve.
“The full process has been fully supported by the Cheshire LEADER team, and we have enjoyed a positive relationship throughout the journey.”
A total of £1,260,176 of grant funding is available in the Cheshire West and Warrington area, and £1,148,000 is available in Cheshire East.
Townley Farm Equestrian Centre is another new farm diversification that has now received funding and construction of the centre’s facilities – including stables, indoor and outdoor ménages, tack rooms, washrooms and a solarium – was completed in early October 2016.
Councillor Brian Clarke, Cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “I’d like to congratulate the first projects to benefit from LEADER funding. They will make a very valuable contribution to our rural economy.
“These projects are just the beginning of what the Cheshire LEADER team aim to achieve during the programme’s lifespan; they are always on the lookout for any rural businesses or organisations seeking capital grant funding, and they are available to help any applicants through the process.”
As well as assisting farm diversification projects, the LEADER programme was also set up to fund new or growing small or micro-enterprises as well as projects related to farm productivity, rural tourism, culture and heritage, rural services and forestry.
Details on the programme’s requirements as well as the sort of costs it can contribute towards can be found on the Cheshire LEADER website at www.cheshireleaderfund.co.uk, or by contacting Sean Bell, the Cheshire LEADER Support Officer, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01244-973824 for more information.
LEADER is part of the wider Rural Development Programme for England which is funded by the European Union, with DEFRA as the managing authority.
It is delivered locally rather than nationally, with decisions on where the grant money is spent being made by an appointed Local Action Group of key representatives from public, private and third-sector organisations in the area.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that funding for the programme will continue until 2020.