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”