LEADER in Kent

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) LEADER Programme is a European Union rural funding approach, with grant funds available from January 2015 to December 2020.

Under the last RDPE 2007-2013 Kent was covered by two Leader areas; West Kent Leader and Kent Downs and Marshes Leader. Both Leader groups operated successfully over the life of this Programme providing support for 116 projects (34 farming and 14 forestry) with a total investment value of £7.65m, creating 83 jobs, safeguarding 377 jobs, and supporting over 500 rural businesses plus 14 start-ups.

Funding under Leader is available to rural businesses, farmers, foresters, growers and landowners, to develop projects that will assist, strengthen and develop their businesses and the local area.

The New RDPE Leader Programme for Kent 2014-2020.

Both West Kent Leader and Kent Downs and Marshes Leader are currently preparing their respective Local Development Strategies which will serve as a bid for funding under the 2014-2020 Programme. They have been joined in the process by a new East Kent Leader group. This will mean that (if all the bids are successful) almost 97% of rural Kent will be able to benefit from Leader funding from January 2015.

Leader areas are restricted to a maximum rural population of 150,000 people and the three Leader areas have worked together to cover as much of the rural area of the County as possible.

West Kent Leader will cover the rural areas of Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, and part of rural Gravesham.

Kent Downs and Marshes Leader will cover the rural areas of Ashford, Maidstone, Medway, Swale (west of Faversham), and the Romney Marshes.

East Kent Leader will cover the rural areas of Thanet, Canterbury, Dover, Swale (East of and including Faversham) and Shepway (north of the Romney marshes).

These areas are based on economic coherence and existing partnerships rather than administrative boundaries.

Between them, the three Leader areas in Kent will be bidding for over £5 million of EU and Defra funding to be used to support rural and land based businesses and local communities.

The Leader groups in Kent will be involved in a competitive process with other groups across England and it is important that each Kent group produces coherent, evidence based strategies that address local issues and opportunities.

The emphasis of each strategy will be on providing Jobs and Growth. This is a requirement set by Defra and each LAG will deliver 70% of project funding directly in support of jobs and growth in the rural economy – using the six priorities for the new Programme. Secondly, it is expected that every project a LAG approves demonstrates it has a benefit to the rural economy.

The six priorities for Leader under the new Programme are;

  • Support for increasing farm productivity
  • Support for micro and small enterprises and farm diversification
  • Support for increasing forestry production
  • Provision of rural services
  • Support for cultural and heritage activity
  • Support for rural tourism

The strategies have to be submitted by 5th September and a decision will be made on awarding funds to the successful Leader areas by early November. The successful Leader groups will then be able to work up and assess projects for support and provide funds from January 2015.

This is an important opportunity for rural and land based businesses in Kent to access over £5 million of grant funding over the next seven years.

Therefore, Kent LEADER is eager to hear from businesses, farmers and foresters that have potential projects in the pipeline and are in need of funding.

It would also like to hear from you if you feel your business or organisation can help it shape the emerging strategies with any ideas, thoughts or opinions, or if you would like to become part of the LAG in your Leader area and have a say on how your Programme is run.

Please contact with any queries;

West Kent Leader; caroline.lingham@sevenoaks.gov.uk tel; 01732 227282

Kent Downs and Marshes Leader; huw.jarvis@kent.gov.uk tel; 01622 696940

East Kent Leader; keith.harrison@ruralkent.org.uk tel; 01303 813790