Next Steps in Roll Out of Rural Development Programme

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The South West of England Regional Development Agency (South West RDA) is advertising for an organisation to provide Grant Administration Services for the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) in the region from September.

The grant administration services will be central to the operation of RDPE – launched in the region on February 4 – and will carry out appraisals, recommend approvals, liaise with the South West RDA on claims and carry out post-implementation spot checks.

RDPE will provide financial support for a wide range of activities in rural areas including environmental stewardship, skills development, farming and forestry diversification, resource management, renewable energy supply chains and community-led development.

The Programme has three priorities for rural development:

  1. Improving competitiveness of the agriculture and forestry sectors
  2. Improving the environment and the countryside
  3. Improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification of economic activity.

The South West RDA is managing the delivery of priorities 1 and 3 with a budget of £156.8 million over seven years.

Applications for funding will be handled in two ways. As well as accepting funding applications from individual businesses and organisations, the RDA is working with in negotiation with key players and experts within the region to set up a ‘commissioning team’.

The team’s role will be to target strategic, policy-driven action in areas such as environmental resource management, animal health and welfare, and tourism.

It is these commissioned themes – likely to be between £0.5m and £10m in total programme value and launched at intervals throughout the life of the RDPE – that will be subject to the grant administration services.

The body providing the services will be expected to handle several hundred projects annually in the region until 2013, with an average £50,000 RDPE funding and an upper range of around £250,000 RDPE funding.

“The RDPE is a large programme which will require substantial, professional administrative input because the new grant administration body will appraise projects, make recommendations for the funding decision and manage the post-approval stages,” said Rob Hatt, head of food and rural affairs at the RDA.

“It will play an important role in ensuring the smooth roll out of the commissioned themes and making sure that they deliver significant benefits for the region.”

The advertisement for organisations to express their interest in becoming the grant administration body has been placed in the European Journal and can also be accessed via the RDA website at www.southwestrda.org.uk Closing date for expressions of interest is April 23.

Notes to editors

The RDPE is a seven-year programme, worth £3.9 billion nationally, and jointly funded by the EU and national Government. It aims to safeguard and enhance our rural environment and foster competitive and sustainable businesses and thriving rural communities. The priority for improving the environment and the countryside is being delivered nationally by the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Grant Scheme and Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Further more information on the RDPE and the schemes see www.sw-ruralgateway.info

South West RDA leads the development of a sustainable economy, investing to unlock the region’s business potential. It works in partnership with public, private and social purpose organisations to drive up the region’s productivity by giving people the skills they need, encouraging enterprise, improving infrastructure, regenerating places and promoting the strengths of the region. For more information see www.southwestrda.org.uk

Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. It conserves and enhances the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. For more information see www.naturalengland.org.uk

Environmental Stewardship (ES) was launched in 2005, builds on the very best practice already evident in British farming. During the period 2007-13 the national budget for ES will be £2.9 billion. The objectives of ES are to:

  • Conserve wildlife (biodiversity).
  • Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character.
  • Protect the historic environment and natural resources.
  • Promote public access and understanding of the countryside.
  • Natural resource protection.

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants, tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. For further information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/england-swe

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