A new scheme offering businesses and community groups in ‘rural’ locations up to £10,000 of free grant funding has launched. The money, which does not need to be repaid, must be spent on projects that improve productivity and strengthen rural economies and communities.
Benefitting from the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF)
The funding comes from the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF). The REPF has given Chelmsford City Council £400,000 to deliver capital projects across a two-year period, with £100,000 available in the first year and £300,000 in the second year. Capital projects are those which have a useful life of over 12 months, such as a building or equipment.
Eligible organisations can submit bids for up to £10,000 by 11.59pm on Friday 29 September 2023. A timetable for the year two funding applications will follow in due course. Businesses and community groups in rural areas are welcome to apply.
Organisations will be expected to have at least 20 per cent of match funding in place in their application.
Chelmsford’s eligible rural areas
This funding is for rural areas only, so not all locations within the Chelmsford local authority area will be eligible. However, the definition of what is ‘rural’ is quite broad and generally excludes the areas closest to the city centre and South Woodham Ferrers. For REPF purposes, rural areas are:
- towns, villages and hamlets with populations below 10,000
- market or hub towns with populations of up to 30,000 that serve their surrounding rural areas as centres of employment and in providing services
The highlighted green areas on the Ordnance Survey map below are rural areas for REPF purposes and eligible for the funding.
Examples of how to use the grant
The REPF grant can help rural community groups or businesses that have a capital project in mind. The aim of the funding is to:
- support new and existing rural businesses to develop new products and facilities that will benefit the local economy. Examples of projects include: a farm business looking to diversify income streams by building additional facilities, a wedding venue adding accommodation to the site or a leisure centre adding catering facilities.
- support new and improved community infrastructure, providing essential community services and assets for local people and businesses to benefit the local economy. Examples of community projects include: creating event space for cultural institutions, restoring heritage sites, installing electric charging stations or building a kitchen in a community hub.
Plenty more examples of how the funding can be used are listed on the City Council website.
Cllr Fuller, Cabinet member for a Growing Chelmsford hopes organisations in the eligible Chelmsford areas take advantage of the opportunity to benefit from the grant funding:
“The scope for using the Rural England Prosperity Fund for projects in the Chelmsford district is vast. The £10,000 grant does not need to be repaid so if businesses and community groups have had a project in mind that will benefit the local area, then now is the time to push forward with it. If organisations are unsure if they qualify or if the project they want to complete meets the criteria, then our Economic Development team are happy to help. Please do reach out if you are interested.”Cllr Fuller, Cabinet member for a Growing Chelmsford
Further council grants
The City Council also has other grants available to benefit communities. The Discretionary Grant Fund, part of the Community Funding Scheme, is for revenue grants to support charitable and voluntary organisations. The Greener Chelmsford Grant is available all year and is specifically for projects benefiting the environment.
The Economic Development team can provide guidance to help community groups and businesses find out which grants they can benefit from.
To apply for the Rural England Prosperity Fund grant and for more information, visit: https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/business/business-advice-support-and-news/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-ukspf/rural-england-prosperity-fund.