Friday, 11 May 2012 11:32

Rural grant scheme oversubscribed

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural grant scheme oversubscribed

THE government's £60m rural economy grant scheme has been massively oversubscribed.

Hundreds of applications were sent to Defra by the 30 April deadline, with total grants requested dwarfing available funds.

Launched in February, the scheme invited applications for grants of between £25,000 and £1m to help secure the transformation of rural businesses.

Successful applicants will receive grants for up to 40% of eligible projects across five categories.

But a high number of requests means that some applicants face the prospect of being left disappointed.

"Defra have received a very high number of applications to date," confirmed the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Network website.

"Any future application round will be dependent on the availability of RDPE funds following the appraisal and selection of the applications received to date."

The highest number and value of applications are said to be for farm competiveness and agri-food projects – ahead of tourism, forestry and micro-enterprise support.

The National Farmers' Union said huge interest in the grant showed that the agricultural industry was prepared to invest in its future.

"There is evidently an abundance of ideas that their proponents regard as sufficiently 'transformational' and 'game-changing' to attract REG funding," said the NFU, adding that efforts to publicise the scheme had been effective.

"Many more applications than expected were made, and it indicates that in terms of maximum grant rates and scope, Defra had it pitched about right.

Banks would need to be prepared to back all the sound business cases being put together by farmers and growers, the NFU said.

"Against that, clearly we have sympathy for those members who have put in a lot of time to prepare applications only to be disappointed."

Applicants may not hear from Defra for a while because it was bound to take time for so many applications to be assessed, the NFU warned.

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