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Gloucestershire Business News

Rural business: fancy some community cash?

Rural businesses in the southern end of the Cotswolds are being offered a chance to grab a slice of project funding that adds up to £400,000.

Stroud District Council (SDC) has been passed the budget from the government's Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) which can be handed out to help businesses contemplating capital projects that create jobs and boost community investment.

Opening applications for the fund access, the council said it was awarded £100,000 through the scheme for 2023-24 and £300,000 for 2024-25.

A spokesman said: "Eligible organisations can apply for grant of £3,000 - £20,000. The funding is for capital projects, and must be spent on lasting assets such as a building or equipment. In most cases 60% match funding will be required."

Specifically, projects proposed need to address challenges facing micro and small businesses which "create jobs and boost community cohesion", SDC said.

"For community group awards, the fund is seeking to invest in activities that enhance physical, cultural and social ties and amenities. Stroud district is home to around 6,000 businesses, the majority of which employ less than 10 people, and thousands of eligible community groups."

Cllr Catherine Braun, SDC leader said: "I'm delighted that we can provide this funding to support small rural businesses across a whole range of sectors. Eligible business projects include innovation activities, job creation, enhancing local tourism and the action that is urgently needed to transition to a low-carbon economy."

Cllr Natalie Bennett, Deputy Leader, added: "A key priority in our Council Plan is community resilience and wellbeing - strengthening and supporting our communities so people feel included and connected.

REPF eligibility includes micro-businesses with fewer than 10 employees and small businesses with fewer than 250. Social enterprises and community interest companies (CICs), town and parish councils, registered charities, public sector organisations, higher and further education institutions and community/voluntary groups can also apply.

As examples of potential successful bids, SDC said sectors could include tourism and the visitor economy, heritage, farm diversification, co-working spaces, networking groups and shared workspaces, food and drink entrepreneurs, breweries, pet/equine facilities and health, arts and cultural organisations, galleries, museums, libraries, community shops and hubs, community gardens, green spaces and repair cafes or mend workshops.

The submission deadline is December 1st for the first round, with first grant funding issued by December 12th. To find out whether your business is eligible, visit the SDC website.

● The REPF is a rural top-up to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which was announced this April by then Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey as a £2.6bn spend for local investment to support levelling up across the UK. DEFRA said at the time: "It marks a change from previous bureaucratic and fragmented EU funds, allowing England to take back control of its own growth investment and giving local leaders a greater say in where funding is best spent."

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