Dudley Peverill

Rural England Prosperity Fund – Levelling Up the Rural Economy

The Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF), is described by DEFRA as a complementary top-up to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The REPF appears to be a successor of the LEADER or Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) which will be familiar to many. The REPF fund was released by DEFRA to function alongside the existing Farming in Protected Landscapes programme and the Farming Investment Fund already benefiting farmers and landowners across the UK.

As we have often discussed, a lack in capital d often appears as a significant obstacle towards diversification for many farm businesses.  However,  farm diversification projects typically require varying degrees of capital investment, which in turn can afford farm businesses more consistent, fixed income. This is a welcomed opportunity for farmers on the whole, due to current market volatility and soaring input costs placing them in a position where they face larger than ever, looming operational costs.

Read on for an overview and our thoughts on the newly released Rural England Prosperity Fund and how you can become a beneficiary.

Feel free to contact us today to discuss the Rural England Prosperity Fund or for a free, no obligations initial consultation, for advice surrounding your farm diversification aspirations.

Who and what is the REPF for?

The REPF has been designed to increase productivity rates, connectivity and access to services within the UK’s rural areas. It will help fund capital projects for small businesses, with the aim of boosting productivity and furthering rural employment opportunities. Therefore, DEFRA has hopes that this fund will close the rural productivity gap.

Farmers with aspirations to diversify are eligible beneficiaries of the REPF. Example capital projects likely to receive funding have been described as :

  • The creation of farm shops, cafés or retail enterprises to shorten the supply chain
  • The creation of events and wedding venues
  • The conversion or development of buildings to more commercial uses
  • The creation of tourist lets and accommodation

The funding itself, once received, must be used towards “long-lasting assets” such as buildings and equipment and not for domestic property improvements, buying private vehicles, operational costs or promotional activities for example.

For the full list of what projects the REPF expects to fund, see the list of interventions, objectives, outputs and outcomes.

How much funding is available?

The total funding across the REPF is £110 million. This significant sum of capital has been allocated to local authorities, with the amounts being based on rural populations, productivity levels and the importance of agriculture within each respectively.

Check how much funding is available to your local authority.

When and how do you apply?

The target opening date for applicants for this funding is currently April 2023 and will run until March 2025. Due to the fund being delivered by local authorities, there may be variance in these amongst regions. It is expected that DEFRA and local authorities will provide further detail on how to apply closer to the time.

Please note, if you have previously received support through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme or the Farming Investment Fund, you may be ineligible for the REPF.

What are the Rural England Prosperity Fund priorities?

Applications will be considered based on evidence of their ability to address regional and local challenges, market weaknesses and opportunities, as well as on how value for money will be realised. Rationale as to why private financing is not feasible for the proposed capital projects is also likely to be pertinent.  Additionally, applicants could benefit by outlining how their project will attract future investment and how it may engage with rural partners.

When planning and writing your application, make sure you consider how it may or may not align with the above priorities. Are there ways you can adapt your project to meet more of the priorities?

Many farmers and landowners will have been frustrated with the lack of innovation and diversification-based funding since the expiration of the LEADER and RDPE schemes. However, the REPF is one of several welcomed recent schemes to have been introduced that will help farmers to diversify their businesses once more.

Although the application window begins in April 2023, we would encourage you to begin writing business plans, budgeting and gaining relevant permissions and licences, to prevent delays when the grant opens.

We believe the arrival of this grant to be a significant opportunity for UK farmers to reconnect with the consumer, whilst increasing the resilience of their business.

If you have a project idea that you think is eligible for this grant, don’t miss out! Contact us today to discuss or ask questions about this grant scheme. We can advise you on your application, ensuring you have the best chance of success.

Unsure of what farm diversification enterprise is for you? Use our free diversification discovery assistant. Simply fill out the short questionnaire and receive a brief,  free review of what farm diversifications may suit you and your business.