Cash boost for rural communities

A CASH boost totalling £230,000 is helping to provide better services for rural communities in Cumbria.

Community groups from Alston to Shap are using kick-start cash from Eden District Council's Rural Infrastructure Fund to develop sustainable projects in their area.

Funding has enabled community groups to attract an estimated additional £1.42 million of investment into Eden, claims the local authority.

Alston Moor is one rural area that has benefitted significantly from the Rural Infrastructure Fund, with grants totalling £71k awarded to projects across Alston, Garrigill and Nenthead.

The largest grant went to the Alston Moor Partnership, which received £40,320 for a project to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the area.

A project officer is currently being recruited to drive this project forward; the Infrastructure Fund grant will fund some of the post.

Partnership chairman Sonia Kempsey said the money would enable the group to help implement recommendations made by a community plan developed last year.

"We are looking toward the sustainability and vibrancy of our far-flung rural community," said Ms Kempsey.

Having a Project Officer to co-ordinate and steer the voluntary work of so many people would help the partnership achieve its aims.

Meanwhile, an £11,000 grant is enabling work to commence to provide a supported bunkhouse at Garrigill Village Hall.

Once completed, the bunkhouse will generate income by providing accommodation for visitors.

Village hall treasurer Tim Haldon said the project would help sustain the village shop and pub and offer a welcome income stream to make the village hall more viable too.

Other prohects include an award of £20,000 to convert a disused Wesleyan Chapel at Nenthead into a multi-faceted business and community asset with provision for volunteering and training.

This project is dependent on receiving match funding from a Heritage Lottery Grant and it is hoped the purchase can be completed during 2013.

The £230,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund was launched at the Eden Community Conference in Skelton in November 2011.

It is a one-off fund with a minimum award of £10,000 for sustainable community projects in Eden's rural areas.

The Eden Community Partnership, which is made up of individuals from across the district, made recommendations to the council on which projects should be allocated funding.

Eden District Council leader Gordon Nicolson said: "The response from local people has been excellent and I am very pleased we have been able to help them achieve their aims.

"Our investment of £230k has enabled community groups to access a further £1.42m which is a staggering sum and will ensure the projects can be sustained in the future.

"To have helped communities access over five times our investment exceeds our early expectations and I congratulate the local groups for their initiative and hard work."


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