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Local authorities will allocate their proportion of the rural fund

Businesses including farms and pubs are set to benefit from a new fund designed to boost rural productivity and employment.

Money from the £110m Rural England Prosperity Fund has been allocated to local authorities in England, who will decide how it is used to support their countryside communities.

Among businesses that may be eligible for grants under the scheme are farms looking to diversify by opening a farm shop, wedding venue or tourism facilities.

The government said the £110m was in addition to the £2.6bn allocated through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to support ‘levelling up’ across the UK, describing it as a rural top-up for eligible local authorities. The funding will be available from April 2023 to March 2025.

Investment will be based on local priorities, with grants potentially available for projects such as:

  • Converting farm buildings to other business uses
  • Rural tourism, such as investments in visitor accommodation
  • Capital grants for provision of gigabit-capable digital infrastructure at hubs such as village halls, pubs and post offices for community use
  • Capital grants to develop, restore or refurbish local natural, cultural and heritage assets and sites
  • Creation of new footpaths and cycle paths, particularly in areas of health need, or capital grants to enable people to develop volunteering and social action projects locally

“This major investment in rural businesses will help us boost the countryside economy and close the rural productivity gap,” said Greg Clark, secretary of state for levelling up.

The new fund was announced alongside the publication of the Delivering for Rural England report that describes the government’s approach to levelling up rural communities.

News of the Rural England Prosperity Fund comes three months after Defra announced grants of up to £300,000 were being made available to help farmers grow their businesses and add value to their produce.