New Small Grants Scheme -Countryside Productivity Launched

The application portal will be open for 8 weeks from 09 July 2019 until 03 September 2019.

The Countryside Productivity Scheme are offering grants of up to £12,000 to support farmers in improving animal health and welfare, resource efficiency and nutrient management.

Grants are available for all farm types including livestock, horticulture and arable businesses, with a total pot of £15 million available for Round 2 to fund investments in new technology.

To apply, applications are made via an online portal that can be accessed through GOV.UK

The CP small grant scheme will be open to applications from 09 July 2019 to 03 September 2019 and full details will be published on  The Countryside Productivity landing page has been updated to include links to the applicant handbook and online application portal.


Prickwillow Museum Opening with LEADER Grant support

Saturday July 6th the Museum was pleased to welcome the Mayor of Ely, Councillor Mike Rouse, and Steph Peachey from Cambridgeshire Fens LAG to the museum where the Mayor Mike Rouse had kindly agreed to carry out the official opening of the new entrance porch by cutting the ribbon on the doors, followed by the cutting of a celebratory cake.

Mike Rouse states,”The great thing about the porch is that it looks as if it has always been there. Just lovely.”

Prickwillow Steam Museum’s  beautiful new entrance was made possible by a grant from the Fens LEADER Fund. Thank you to Steph Peachey who was there on behalf of the Local Action Group.

The improvements included new heating and reglazing some of the windows.

The vision and dedication of the team of volunteers at this wonderful museum are transforming it into a great venue., so come on all artists, photographers, theatre groups – how about staging some events there?

official opening

Village Hall Improvement Grant Fund – Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE)

The Autumn 2018 budget announced that, to mark the centenary of the Armistice, government would support several initiatives, including making available grant funding to support improvement projects for village halls.

The grant funding will be managed by ACRE on behalf of Defra with support from the ACRE Network. The grant aims to help fund the updating and refurbishment of village halls so that they are fit for purpose and provide activities which seek to achieve one or more of the following outcomes for their communities:

  • Improved health and wellbeing/reduction in loneliness
  • Demonstrates a positive impact on the environment
  • Supports the local rural economy

There will be greater emphasis given to applications who have already secured most of the funding.

The scheme will fund up to 20% of eligible costs, with a minimum grant of £10,000 and a maximum grant of £75,000 payable. This means overall scheme costs would be between £50,000 and £375,000.

Community Business Fund – Power to Change

This programme is for existing community business based in England. The fund is designed to support existing community businesses with grants to help them progress towards self-sufficiency. This could be through increasing trading income, securing an asset or significantly reducing revenue costs

Grants of £50,000 – £300,000 are available to cover:

  • Capital costs including building, vehicles, equipment of significant value, refurbishment costs.
  • Project-specific revenue costs like staff costs, professional fees, volunteer costs

The fund opens for applications on 24 April and closes 22 May 2019.

Re-opening of Oliver Cromwell’s House, Ely

LS and Kieron Launch

Oliver Cromwell’s House, Ely was officially reopened following its recent refurbishment, on Tuesday 26th March 2019.

Charles, 9th Earl Spencer carried out the official ceremony, pictured here with Kieran Carr, LEADER programme Manager.

This refurbishment was made possible with a £30,000 grant funded from the Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER Programme, co-ordinated by Cambridgeshire ACRE. The money has been used to re-design one of the eight rooms which makes up the tour of the House. The re-design of the Civil War Room Exhibition will increase visitor numbers to the House and in turn to Ely. OCH image

Manager of Oliver Cromwell’s House, Tracey Harding said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive the grant.  Our Civil War Exhibition, which is one of the key themes on our tour, has been redesigned to make it more interactive and engaging for visitors.  We have made a series of changes to the House over the past few years, including converting one of our rooms into an Escape Room, but this is the first time that we have received external funding to specifically focus on improving the attraction.  We are extremely grateful for all the support that we have received from Cambridgeshire Acre in assisting us with securing this grant.”

Government urged to produce new rural strategy.

Rural services providers call on Government to seize opportunity to end “rural mainstreaming”

Rural services providers and community organisations across England are today calling on the Government to produce an urgent comprehensive strategy for rural areas in preparation for Brexit, in light of a warning that people living in ours towns and villages “simply cannot afford to wait any longer for politicians to take their concerns seriously and act on them”.

The call is the result of concern that deep-seated challenges to the sustainability of rural communities and service delivery in rural areas have been inadequately addressed by those in power for too long and the situation has become urgent. The significant outflow of people from rural areas to urban-based jobs continues to be a source of concern, like the prevailing sense that the potential of rural areas is being squandered, despite projections that unlocking their digital potential could add at least £12bn of extra productivity each year to the UK economy. Fuelling concern further is the fear that the UK’s exit from the EU will serve to compound these existing challenges, and others, not least as in many respects the current model is heavily reliant on EU policies and funding streams.

Leading the charge, membership organisation Rural Services Network said after years of an inadequate rural policy framework exacerbated by public sector austerity and, the Government must produce a new strategy for rural areas which ensures existing mainstream policies work for these towns and villages, addresses brain drain, improves infrastructure and transport links, and raises the opportunities and challenges facing rural areas up the political agenda ahead of the next spending review.

“Rural Communities are frequently overlooked in a policy environment dominated by urban thinking and policy concerns. This often means communities either miss out on the benefits or experience unintended consequences from policies which are poorly thought-through from a rural perspective. It is time for this ‘rural mainstreaming’ to stop. People living in ours towns and villages simply cannot afford to wait any longer for politicians to take their concerns seriously and act on them,” said Rural Services Network chief executive, Graham Biggs.

“If rural communities are to be sustainable, the Government must seize this opportunity to work with communities to produce a long-term, funded rural strategy which recognises the contribution rural areas make and have the potential to make to the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation as a whole.”

17 per cent (9.4 million) of England’s population live in rural areas – that is more people than in Greater London receiving less grant per head than urban areas, despite the fact that it costs more to provide their services. For example, in 2018/19 urban authorities will receive 49.43 per cent (£123) per head in Settlement Funding Assessment grant more than their rural counterparts.

In acknowledgement of the numerous challenges faced by rural areas, the Rural Services Network has produced a report identifying several priority areas for a new Government Rural Strategy and the issues they must address. These include:

  • EU support & funding: In 2020, sources of funding which support rural businesses and community development from EU initiatives will end. A new Rural Strategy must provide rural businesses with the support they need to create thriving local economies.
  • Broadband connectivity: In England’s rural areas 15 per cent of premises are unable to access broadband connection with the speed regulator, Ofcom, considers necessary for everyday online tasks. A new Rural Strategy must ensure all rural households and businesses have the option of reliable access to broadband and mobile networks.
  • Brain drain: There is a significant outflow of people from rural areas to urban-based jobs. A new Rural Strategy must ensure opportunities for quality jobs, skills and training are available so young people can remain local.
  • Housing: House prices are, on average, £44,000 higher in rural areas than urban areas. But the median average earnings for rural employment are £21,400, 10 per cent less than England’s average which stands at £23,700.
  • Transport: During 2016/17 alone, 202 bus services were withdrawn altogether in shire areas. People of all ages must have the means to travel to services, jobs and for social purposes.
  • Health: Rural and urban areas receive similar funding (per resident) under the NHS allocations to CCGs, but this does not reflect the older rural demographic, which places extra demand on NHS services.

Speaking in support of the RSN’s report, The Bishop of Ely, Stephen Conway, the Church of England’s lead Bishop for Education, who has previously called for a rural strategy, said:

“We welcome the Rural Services Network’s report, and echo its call for a cross-Government rural strategy.

“The Church of England is at the heart of rural communities with around two thirds of our 16,000 churches in rural areas, and half of our 4,700 schools found in the countryside. Where the post office, the pub and shop have disappeared, these are often the only community focus left, and are crucial to the identity and wellbeing of villages and rural areas.

“We are committed to helping rural communities flourish through our churches and schools, but this requires fit-for-purpose infrastructure, transport, job opportunities and the other vital services for which this report calls.”

The full Rural Services Network report can be accessed here.

LEADER – Promoting Success

 Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER programme: the rural funding programme that has created jobs, boosted salaries and increased visitor numbers to the Fens

In 2015 we were awarded £1.5m to deliver a new four-year EU funded programme – the Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER programme. Focused on rural development, in just three years the programme has delivered significant economic, social and environmental impact and business growth to the Fens region with limited investment. A rural population of over 2,000 have benefited from the £1.3 million grants committed through the programme. This has resulted in:

  • The creation of 75 jobs
  • An increase in salaries worth £3.7 million over the life of the programme
  • An increase in day visitors to the region of 34,036
  • The development of 6 new agricultural products, and 19 new agricultural techniques.

The strength and importance of the LEADER approach
Managed by Defra as a nationwide programme, Cambridgeshire ACRE acted as the accountable body for the programme and delivered the programme alongside a large Local Action Group (LAG), made up of third parties from across Fenland.

At the heart of the programme’s success is the LEADER approach – founded on the idea of strong relationships developed through collaboration. Receiving close and tailored support from Cambridgeshire ACRE and the LAG has provided beneficiaries with opportunities to fast track their businesses, developed their confidence and independence, and provided them with access to further investment opportunities.

One grant beneficiary, producer of medical collagen products CambCol, commented: “The local team were very helpful in advising us on the application process, providing advice on eligibility and scale of our funding requests and “sense – checking” of our plans and grant proposal.  Their assistance helped to make our application a reasonably straightforward process.”

The impact of gaining the LEADER grant has been immediate and significant for CambCol: “It has allowed us to push on and establish a modern, well-equipped local HQ that gives us the capability and competitive advantage to support our ambitious growth plans for years to come, while also delivering broader benefits to the area beyond those to just the company itself.”

The post-Brexit future of EU funded programmes
We have a proven track record in delivering EU funded programmes, having previously led “Fens Adventurers”, a successful RDPE funded LEADER programme between 2009 and 2013. With funding provided by the EU, rural programmes such as this face uncertainty post Brexit.

We are calling for both rural funding programmes to continue, and the unique LEADER approach to remain.

Cambridgeshire ACRE Chief Executive Kirsten Bennett commented:  “Local people making project investment decisions for their local area has been proven as a successful way to support the rural economy.  We are proud of the level of job creation and business growth achieved.  Our ask is for this approach to be continued under any new rural funding arrangements post Brexit.”

Chair of the LAG Martin Collison commented: “The LEADER approach works well because it is about local people deciding what is right for them and their part of the country”




£1.34m fund to support community food and farming businesses

A new £1.34 million programme is offering community food and farming businesses a mix of affordable loans and grants, side by side with support to get investment ready.

The Real Farming Trust set up the new Loans for Enlightened Agriculture Programme (LEAP) with help from Power to Change, the independent trust that supports community businesses in England.

“We understand the challenges that food and farming enterprises face in raising finance, whether that is waiting for a grant to come through or having the funds to grow and develop when you have no assets to secure against.” said Robert Fraser from the Real Farming Trust. “LEAP will provide a critical next step for community based agroecological enterprises that have relied on grant funding to date and who have had nowhere to go to finance their onward development.”

Interested communities can apply for 5 year unsecured loans between £25,000 and £100,000, and a grant worth 18% of the loan amount. The capital for the loan fund has been provided by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the A Team Foundation and the Centre For Innovation In Voluntary Action (CIVA). Mentoring support, funded by Power to Change, will be provided to help successful groups develop their business plans.

“We’re looking to work with community businesses who understand the needs of local people and have already built up their local community of support, but are not yet investment ready.” said Jenny Sansom, Programme Manager at Power to Change. “Getting a loan can seem daunting but can really help your organisation develop to the next stage. We’ve funded the Real Farming Trust to run a mentoring programme, which can support your group through that.”

The programme is currently open for applications. Find out more Here

Funding for Projects in Areas of Greatest Need in Rural UK

Applications are currently being accepted for projects that will provide a long-term positive impact to the individuals and communities they seek to benefit in rural communities across the UK.

Organisations can apply for a maximum of £50,000, or £25,000 if a shop, pub, or village hall project (inclusive of VAT) for a maximum period of three years.

Projects must take place in a rural area and focus on at least one of the following three areas:

  • Sustaining Rural Communities
    • Projects that deliver assets and services that keep isolated communities together and develop a more sustainable rural economy.
    • Developing sustainable rural community assets, businesses and services.
    • Providing advice and new skills and business training that benefit the local economy.
  • Improving the prospects of viability for farm and rural businesses
    • Projects that will focus on developing stronger, more sustainable farm businesses and other rural enterprises with the aim of halting the decline of the rural economy.
    • Encouraging local food production and short supply chains and knowledge transfer e.g. farmer networks.
    • Providing new skills and training for rural, and agricultural benefit.
  • Supporting Aid Delivery in Emergency and Building Resilience
    • Projects that support farm businesses, rural businesses and communities to plan for and recover from natural disasters such as flooding or animal disease and build resilience.

Applications for core costs such as staffing, overheads, training and equipment will be considered.

The deadline for applications is 21 February 2019 (4pm).

Latest news

02/01/2019 – £675m Future High Streets Fund Opens for Applications

A new fund which forms part of the government’s policy paper ‘Our Plan for the High Street’, providing co-funding towards capital projects that bring transformative change in England’s high streets, has opened to applications.

The Future High Streets Fund aims to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability. In this first phase of the programme, local authorities in England are being asked to define the specific challenges faced by their high streets. They should set out their overarching strategic ambition for what their high street or town centre should become and what needs to happen to achieve this.

The Fund will contribute a maximum of £25 million to each successful place. The funder expects to see a range of project sizes coming forward, many of which will be in the region of £5-10 million per town centre. As such, it is not expected that the full amount will be allocated to each area. Up to £55 million of the Fund has also been allocated to support the regeneration of ‘heritage high streets’. Bids will help to restore historic high street properties for new work spaces or cultural venues.

The identified need for investment should fall under the following themes:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure.
  • Acquisition and assembly of land, including to support new housing, workspaces and public realm.
  • Improvements to transport access, traffic flow and circulation in the area.
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification.
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology.

Bids are being invited from unitary authorities, metropolitan districts, London boroughs and, where there is a two-tier system, district councils, in England. Local authorities should provide proof of engagement with, and support from, several stakeholders, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), Business Improvement Districts and the private sector.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said:

“We all know high streets are changing, we can’t hide from this reality. But we’re determined to ensure they continue sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.

“To do this we have to support investment in infrastructure, boosting local economies and ensuring people are able to get the most out of their local high streets. Empowering leaders on the ground is key too – they best understand the challenges facing their areas.

“Our Future High Streets Fund will drive forward this change, transforming our town centres into the thriving community hubs of the future.”

Expressions of Interest for Phase 1 of the Fund must be received by midnight on Friday 22 March 2019.