Rural Kent gains £5m investment

Millions of pounds worth of investment will be plugged into rural businesses and communities across Kent…

£5m will be available for businesses and community groups to support and develop growth in the rural region.

The funding comes from the LEADER programme, which is a joint scheme between the EU and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and will be provided by Local Action Groups (LAGs). These consist of local partners and stakeholder from the local community.

In Kent, three LEADER areas operate, including the West Kent LEADER, which includes rural areas of Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, and part of rural Gravesham; the Kent Downs and Marshes LEADER, which includes rural areas of Ashford, Maidstone, Medway, Swale, and the Romney Marshes; and East Kent LEADER, which covers rural Thanet, Canterbury, Dover, Swale, and Shepway.

Around 116 projects have already been delivered in these areas, creating over 80 new job roles. A total of 500 businesses have also been supported, and over £5m private sector match funding had been gained between 2007 and 2013.

Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Kent County Council Councillor Sean Holden said: “This is really good news for rural Kent.

“Now that LEADER covers nearly the whole county our farming, forestry and other rural businesses, and our rural communities, will be able to get funds for new, small scale projects that will contribute significantly to local job creation, rural economic growth and environmental protection”.

Rural businesses, farmers, foresters, growers, landowners, environmental organisations, cultural, heritage, and community providers can bid for a slice of the funding.

Chairman of West Kent LEADER LAG Chris Cooper said: “The rural economy of West Kent presents a unique set of challenges recognised in our Local Development Strategy.

“Rural employment needs to be supported and at the same time positive management of rural landscapes in West Kent needs to be promoted. LEADER is key to sustainable business growth and we welcome the new programme”.

Chairman of Kent Downs and Marshes LEADER LAG Keith Harrison said: “These awards are great news. There is no other rurally focussed investment stream like LEADER – where local partners set a strategy and then invest in projects designed to bring about related economic, social or environmental benefit.”

Chairman of East Kent LEADER, farmer and NFU/CLA representative Charles Tassell said: “It is really encouraging news to hear that the East Kent plan has been accepted. LEADER approval means extra funding to the rural sector enabling projects that will make a difference to many groups within East Kent.”

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