Support still available for rural businesses in Mid and East Devon

Planet Play

Posted on: 20 December 2016

Rural businesses in Mid and East Devon are being reminded that they can still apply for funding through a special support programme.

Devon County Council is overseeing the £1.2 million LEADER REAL Devon grant which aims to support the rural economy and create jobs. The programme is EU funded, but the County Council is reassuring businesses that the funding is still available over the next two years.

Among those to have successfully received funding so far is Planet Play SW Ltd, a new children’s soft play centre and café in Crediton, which opened recently having received £18,700 to help with set up costs of the soft play equipment and equipping the kitchen area. The business has created 2.5 full time equivalent jobs and it has provided a vibrant family-orientated facility which is easily accessible within the town centre.

Sean Schofield, owner of Planet Play, said: “Being a parent and knowing what it’s like with there not being much for young children to do around here, I saw a gap in the market. We found this building 18 months ago – it had been derelict for years, but after meeting the landlord it looked achievable if we could get the money. When I heard about the grant I thought there was no harm in applying.

“The funding has been a massive help. Whether we would have started the business without it, I don’t know. It’s certainly made it possible. Most people borrow money when setting up a new business but borrowing another £18,000 might have been too much. The process makes it very clear what is eligible for funding, and it was a good learning process. It’s definitely worth doing.”

E&J Greed Farm Partnership, based in Thorverton, has been awarded more than £12,200 from REAL Devon to purchase a Zero Tillage Drill and GPS system. This investment is enabling them to reduce production costs by improving overall soil health and resilience. The zero tillage drill reduces the damage that conventional tillage causes to the soil and environment when sowing its arable crops. The farm has been “soil mapped” – identifying the soil type and nutrient level across the farm, linked to GPS co-ordinates, to achieve better plant establishment.

George Greed, of the E&J Greed Farm Partnership, said: “Without the help of LEADER funding it would have been difficult for a small family business like ours to justify the purchase of a zero-till drill and GPS kit. There have been instant benefits from the grant by reducing the cost of establishing crops through reduced labour, diesel and herbicide usage. Our soils will begin to regenerate, building organic matter and carbon which is otherwise oxidised into the atmosphere by cultivations. In the long term this will reduce the amount of artificial pesticides and fertilisers need to grow our crops.”

Devon County Council is the accountable body for two of the five Local Action Groups across Devon – Making it Local, and REAL Devon. It is working with key partners on the programme, including Mid and East Devon District Councils.

The REAL Devon Local Action Group covers the majority of Mid Devon and seven East Devon parishes (Brampford Speke, Huxham, Nether Exe, Poltimore, Rewe, Stoke Canon and Upton Pyne), and is overseeing the delivery of more than £1.2 million of funding over the next two years.

The Local Action Group acts as a panel, made up of private and community sector representatives, to award grants locally to farmers, growers, foresters, other rural businesses and community organisations. It supports projects that create opportunities to improve the local economy in terms of jobs and growth, as well as improving the quality of life in the area.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth, said: “It’s pleasing to see local businesses benefiting directly from LEADER funding, helping new ventures get off the ground and supporting the growth of their firms. We’re keen to support Devon’s rural economy and the partnership of the REAL Devon Local Action Group is ensuring this funding makes a difference to our local communities.”

Councillor Richard Chesterton, Mid Devon District Council’s Deputy Leader and Chair of the REAL Devon Local Action Group, said: “There are more than 3,500 businesses in Devon and I’d encourage rural businesses and communities to take advantage of this opportunity to access the LEADER funding to help create jobs and boost the local economy.”

The LEADER grants programme aims to:

• increase farm productivity;
• support micro and small businesses and farm diversification;
• boost rural tourism;
• provide rural services;
• provide cultural and heritage activities; and
• increase forestry productivity.

The scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) which is run by DEFRA and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

To find out more about the funding programme visit the Local Action Group website at www.REALDevon.org

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