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KEY RURAL REGENERATION SCHEME LAUNCHED

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Rural affairs minister Alun Michael today opened a unique ...
Rural affairs minister Alun Michael today opened a unique

rural regeneration project during a visit to Northumberland.

Mr Michael formally opened Rivermead - six new workshops for small

and light industry - in Kielder. The workshops form part of a

regeneration programme aimed at boosting the local economy.

Launched in 1999, the programme was part-funded by a £500,000 Single

Regeneration Budget grant from the Northumberland Strategic

Partnership.

As a result, the village now has England's first five-star-rated

youth hostel transformed from the redundant wing of a village school,

a new garage and taxi bus service and new social housing boasting a

unique, wood-fired heating system.

Mr Michael said: 'Kielder is one of the most remote areas in England

but what's happening there sets an example to other rural communities

to follow.

'This is a small community which really seems to be pulling together

to make things happen. Workshops give people somewhere to build

businesses while social housing gives local people affordable places

to live.

'Members of the Kielder regeneration steering group should be

congratulated. By pulling together, the local community has been able

to draw in vital extra cash to give the village a boost.'

In Kielder, Mr Michael also took a tour around the Minotaur - a maze

built out of rocks and recycled glass bottles.

This unique construction, named after the half-man, half-bull

creature of Greek classical mythology, was funded partly by Leader+,

a European rural-development scheme administered by Defra.

The innovative design, made out of 480 tonnes of basalt rock and

includes a glass central chamber, was shortlisted as part of the

Bombay Sapphire Prize.

Since its launch last June, the Minotaur has attracted thousands of

visitors. It is one of a number of initiatives supported under the

LEADER + programme in the North Pennines. It has also been suppo rted

by the Arts Council North east and other private and public sector

bodies.

NOTES

1. LEADER+ is a European Community Initiative to support sustainable

rural development. LEADER is the acronym for the French title

'Liaison Entre Actions pour le Developpement de L'Economie Rurale'

('Links between actions for the development of the rural economy').

2. The UK has been allocated a total of e112.7m from the EAGGF

Guidance Fund for the six year period (2000 to 2006) of the

Initiative, of which England will receive e54.276m (approximately

£32.5m). This EU funding is matched by Defra, other government

sources, and the private sector. There are separate LEADER+

programmes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

3. There are 25 local action groups in England who receive funds to:

- Identify development needs within rural communities, which they set

out in a development plan

- Develop and test small scale innovative projects to meet these

development needs in a sustainable way

4. The North Pennines Local Action Group partnership involves a wide

mix of community, voluntary, business and public sector organisations

based on the previous LEADERII group. It is led by Durham CC. The theme is Improving the Quality of Life. Funding will

target women, young people, unemployed and underemployed people. It

covers an area of 5,064 square km including parts of County Durham,

Northumberland and Cumbria. The partnership has a budget of £3m - £2m from the EU and £1m from Defra. Work will

be based on seven strategic objectives: empowering people and

communities, rural entrepreneurs, news skills new prospects, rural

services, living and working landscapes, healthy lives - healthy

communities and art and culture.

5. The Kielder Partnership is a partnership formed to promote

sustainable tourism in the North Tyne and Redesdale area of

Northumberland. The partners members are Tynedale Council, For est

Enterprise, Northumbrian Water, Northumberland CC,

Northumberland National Park and Northumbria Tourist Board.

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