£2.5m Bid Made For Rural Development Funding

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£2.5m Bid Made For Rural Development Funding

A bid for up to £2.5 million of EU and Government funding has been made to support new rural development projects in the Cotswolds and West and North Oxfordshire over the next six years.

Cotswold District Council, a partner in the bid led by West Oxfordshire District Council, is looking forward to hearing the news in May when it will be announced if the bid has been successful.

Portfolio holder for Corporate Planning Councillor Carole Topple, said: “If we're successful, this money will create new and innovative opportunities for residents of the Cotswolds, helping to maintain the vitality of our rural communities and protect the distinctive nature of our landscape.”

Following discussions with partners late last year, the initial bid was reworked to include Lechlade, stretching the area covered to the boundaries of the Cotswold District.

Councillor Topple added: ‘We were really keen to have a programme covering all our small market towns, as these are important economic and social hubs for our residents.
“Cirencester isn't included as the funding has to be focused on areas with less than 10,000 populations, but organisations based in the town, such as the Royal Agricultural College and Cirencester College, will be able to get involved.”

The bid has been submitted to the Government’s South East England Development Agency – SEEDA. The agency has already made it clear that priority for any grant allocation should be given to innovative ideas in farming, forestry, business and the community, and to projects that could help tackle climate change and reduce demand on the Earth’s natural resources.

Strong emphasis would be on capital projects involving machinery and buildings. Money could be allocated for things like farm diversification to develop new farm shops or convert buildings for tourist accommodation.

Environmental projects could focus on a move into growing crops to produce biofuels or, for instance, converting a school heating system to burn wood instead of oil.

Already there is a range of good ideas from the three Districts involved and a steering group of representatives from over 20 community and voluntary bodies has been set up to agree priorities for funding.

This group includes elected Members and key officers from Cotswold, West Oxfordshire and Cherwell District Councils, as well as the Cotswold Conservation Board, the Royal Agricultural College and other related rural associations.
Autumn 2008 is likely to be the earliest any project with this support could go ahead.

Posted : 18/03/2008 23:45:07

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