Herefordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed for the council to submit a “Rural Prosperity Fund” to access £1,705,669 in capital funding allocated to Herefordshire, to be spent between April 2023 and end of March 2025.

The Fund, a replacement for the previous “LEADER” and national “Growth Programme” grant schemes, will in the future provide capital funding to support new and existing rural businesses to develop new products and facilities that will be of wider benefit to the local economy, as well as new and improved community infrastructure.

Following the government approval of the addendum, the council will establish grant schemes for launch as the funds become available from April 2023.

Cllr Ellie Chowns, Cabinet Member for Environment and Economy, said: “Around 90 per cent of our businesses are micro enterprises—fewer than 10 employees—and a further 8 per cent are small businesses—fewer than 50 employees. The previous Leader and Rural Development Programme therefore had a high take up and impact across the rural economy, and we expect this to continue through the Rural Prosperity Fund.

“The funding will facilitate improved productivity and energy efficiency, helping rural businesses to implement the measures that will make the biggest impact to them and the environment. It will also improve mobility through building on best practice community transport initiatives, as well as cycling and walking networks, and enable people to access employment, training, education and critical services.

“We would like to thank everybody involved with the Herefordshire Sustainable Growth and Strategy Board (HSGSB), which oversaw the development of the bid, and included representation from businesses, partners and stakeholders from across the county, along with a range of rural partners, including the National Farmers Union (NLA), Country Land and Business Association (CLA), and Herefordshire Rural Hub.

“Their contribution will help to secure this funding for Herefordshire, and contribute to addressing the climate and ecological emergency, promoting economic opportunity, and supporting the county’s tourism and cultural sector.”