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.

Power to Change Funding Opportunity 2019

Power to Change are an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England. The Power to Change Research Institute invites all academics, researchers and community businesses to pre-register for its 2019 open call for research funding for projects that have tangible benefits for the community business sector in England. You can register to receive an email reminder when the call for expressions of interest goes live on 2nd January 2019.

Here is the link to pre-register for an email reminder on 2nd January.

If you are unsure about whether your organisation or an organisation you are working with is a community business, Power to Change provide helpful information on their definition of a community business. 

Details of criteria will be released on the 2nd January 2019 when all potential proposers will see the criteria but in general Power to Change are looking for interesting and high quality expressions of interest from partnerships as well as individual researchers who want to run a research project within the region of £20-£40k looking at anything community business related but particularly:

–          Workforce i.e. volunteers and employees

–          Sustainability

–          Public services e.g. community business spin outs or community businesses emerging in this space, especially health and social care

–          Community asset transfer

–          Localism

–          Energy i.e. community owned energy businesses

–          BAME-led community businesses

–          The economic model of community business

Check out the Power to Change website for further details.

Grant achieved – Bringing Chatteris Museum into 21st Century

This project will breathe new life into the museum – bringing it technologically up-to-date. The entrance area display screen will be useful for communicating information to the public, in order to effectively inform visitors of events, exhibits and special events.The new interactive screen will show a range of information relevant to our current displays/exhibitions and about Chatteris and the local area – enhancing the experience for visitors.  ‘Having ‘old’ displays/exhibitions alongside ‘new’ technology means we can tie the two in together and demonstrate that museums are not ‘old stuffy places’ but innovative and exciting places.’ Sally Shortland, museum treasurer and successful achiever of LEADER grant.

photo of entrance area

The museum will be a fun place where adults and children alike will enjoy spending time together and we would expect an increase in numbers attending.  At the moment the museum does not charge for entry but relies on voluntary donations for support.

photo of large interactive screen

Prince Charles spent time talking with Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER during his visit to Fenland

Prince Charles was led into St Peter’s and St Paul’s church, Wisbech to learn about some of the area’s key voluntary organisations, charities and projects, including the economic development programme LEADER.

MC at stand

There was a display of a range of locally grown varieties of pumpkin, squash and sweetcorn  donated from Robert Stacey of Freshfields Farm, who has benefited from receiving a LEADER grant.

His Royal Highness spoke with those involved with Cambridgeshire Acre, LEADER group showing a particular interest in water and soil management. During the conversation with Martin Collison, Local Action Group chair, Prince Charles commented that soil and water management has important environmental significance for areas like the Fens. He was interested in the projects that had supported these areas of significance.

HRH Prince Charles 070

Photo by Adam Fairbrother

Kieran Carr of Cambridgeshire Acre said: “Leader adopts a bottom up approach using local people to make decisions on the grant funding agreements based on local need, and give people a say in decisions. This is something that Prince Charles particularly supported.”


Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER fund closes due to oversubscription

The Cambridgeshire Fens Rural Development Programme LEADER fund is currently oversubscribed and will not accept new expressions of interest after the 17th August 2018. All current applications will continue to be processed as normal. We anticipate that the latest any grant funding agreements will be signed is the 31 March 2019 and that all funds will be spent by December 2019.

Open for business update

LEADER funding is limited and will be prioritised to applications that contribute the most to the Local Action Group’s strategy.


We are currently oversubscribed, but we are open for new applications as there is a possibility that not all current projects will complete or be funded. New projects applying to us will need to meet the national priorities:

*             Creates new, or higher-skilled, or higher paid jobs.

*             Demonstrates a clear future plan to grow your business or increase its productivity.

*             Provides benefits to the wider economy in the rural area.

In addition the Cambridgeshire Fens Local Action Group is interested in projects that:

*             Include elements of technical advances, innovation and uniqueness.

*             Contribute to environmental improvements.

*               Provide new facilities for the Fens area supported by a long term business plan to sustain these.

*             Produce high quality food for value added markets.

All projects will be appraised on their individual merits measured on the above priorities; grants will be awarded accordingly.

For further information please contact  Kieran Carr at kieran.carr@cambsacre.og.uk or Alison Earl at alison.earl@cambsacre.org.uk