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RURAL DEVELOPMENT SERVICE PAVES THE WAY FOR NEW FUNDING SCHEMES

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Changes to the current England Rural Development Programme were announced by the Rural Development Service today, t...
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.

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.

Contact details for RDS offices can be found at www.defra.gov.uk/rds.

Those without internet access can get details of their nearest office by calling the helpline on 08459 33 55 77

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.

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.

Notes

1. The 30 June 2006 application deadline does not apply to Objective

1 and LEADER+ funding.

This note relates only to the socio-economic funding elements of the England Rural Development Programme (currently the Rural Enterprise Scheme, the Processing and Marketing Grant, the Vocational Training Scheme and the Energy Crops (SRC) Producer Group Scheme - known as the Project Based Schemes) and its successor. It does not relate to the agri-environment funding delivered through Environmental Stewardship (Entry Level and Higher Level Schemes); nor does it relate to the Energy Crops Scheme Establishment Grants, the Hill Farm Allowance, or the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

2. As part of Rural Strategy 2004, Defra has reviewed its funding streams for rural areas. The Department is committed to reducing the current range of schemes and programmes to a framework based around three major funds targeted to the three Departmental strategic priorities impacting on rural areas: environmental land management and natural resource protection; sustainable rural communities; and sustainable food and farming. This approach aims to achieve greater simplicity for customers and to improve value for money; it is being implemented progressively, with the final stage to be completed with the rollout of the next rural development programme (2007-2013).

Further details of the funding streams review can be found at:

http:www.defra.gov.uk/rural/ruraldelivery/funding/default.htm

3. The current England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) provides a framework for the operation of 7 separate but integrated schemes which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural communities to thrive. The schemes (and a brief outline of their

aims) are:

- Environmental Stewardship (a new scheme replacing the Countryside Stewardship, Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Organic Farming Schemes, which are now closed to new applicants). The scheme is designed to conserve England's countryside, securing widespread environmental benefits.

- Hill Farm Allowance (supporting sustainable farming in the English hills).

- English Woodland Grant Scheme (a new scheme replacing the Woodland Grant and Farm Woodland Premium Schemes, which are now closed to new applicants). The Scheme aims to sustain and increase the public benefits given by existing woodlands and to help create new woodlands to deliver additional public benefit.

- Energy Crops Scheme (encouraging renewable energy production).

- Rural Enterprise Scheme (supporting a diversified and enterprising rural economy).

- Vocational Training Scheme (improving occupational skills of farmers).

- Processing and Marketing Grant (improving agricultural processing and marketing infrastructure).

4. A total of£1.6 billion of EU and Government money was made available under these schemes in England during the 7 years (2000 to

2006) of the Programme.

5. For more information on any of the schemes in the ERDP, contact your local Rural Development Service office or visit the Defra website at http:www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/default.htm

6. In future the Regional Development Agencies will ensure that support for rural areas will be delivered as close to local areas as possible and integrated with other support to ensure sustainable development and the effective public sector investment. Contact details for the English Regional Development Agencies are available at www.englandsrdas.com

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