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Seeda to Invest 60 Million in Rural Areas Over the Next Six Years

14 January 2008

Government tasks RDAs with granting record investment into rural development.

The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) is to receive £60 million from the Government to set about improving the competitiveness of farming, forestry and horticulture, address disadvantage in rural areas and diversify the rural economy across the South East region.

SEEDA is managing this element of the larger Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which will be open for business in the South East from the 18th January 2008.

Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) throughout England are being tasked with making agriculture and forestry more competitive and enhancing opportunities for rural businesses, social enterprises and community projects.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced a record investment of £3.9 billion for rural development nationwide in December 2007. The programme is aimed at helping protect and enhance the environment, making the agricultural and forestry sectors more competitive and securing a sustainable future for rural communities and is jointly funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Defra.

In the South East, the funding will be awarded to farmers, horticulturalists, foresters and rural communities. Specifically, SEEDA will be looking to support renewable energy, improving water-management on farms, adding value to food, training and uptake of the latest technologies, farm diversification and helping rural communities help themselves, for example setting up childcare facilities in rural communities that will allow parents to return to work.

A substantial proportion of the SEEDA RDPE programme will be delivered using a bottom-up and delegated approach. Around 18 Leader local action groups are gearing up to apply for funding, potentially covering up to 70 per cent of the region. These LAGs will typically be made up of representatives from local authorities, parish councils, the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association, Rural Community Councils, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, youth organisations and rural businesses. They will administer the funding and thereby address local needs and opportunities within the overall framework of priorities for the region. The Leader groups are currently in the process of preparing their bids for SEEDA support and the successful applicants will be operational from May 2008.

SEEDA’s Rural Director Valerie Carter says; "The Rural Development Programme has a strong focus on sustainability and climate change issues, as you would expect in the South East where quality of life - now and for future generations - is at the top of the agenda for the region. SEEDA has already been working with businesses, local authorities and other partners to develop around 30 expressions of interest in projects across the South East that will tackle climate change and social exclusion, such as renewable energy and tourism based social enterprises. I look forward to seeing really strong proposals from local partners on how, through this kind of work, we will together improve the competitiveness of the rural economy and address disadvantage in rural communities."

Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Rural Affairs said: "I am delighted that SEEDA has launched its £60 million fund to invest in making the South East of England an even better place for rural people to live and work in, and where rural businesses can prosper and grow. This is part of a record investment of £3.9 billion by the Government in rural development in England between now and 2013. It will help our farming, food and forestry industries to thrive and become more competitive, and enhance opportunity for rural businesses and communities."

SEEDA will be running a series of workshops across the South East in 2008 to provide information on the RDPE programme and how to apply for funding. For further information please contact Helen Dallas at SEEDA on 01483 484200 or email

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