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A collection of news stories, reports and announcements from or about Transition related matters.

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Rural Opportunities

Rural Opportunities
April 2012

Coastal Communities Fund
This new fund is designed “to support the economic development of coastal communities by promoting sustainable economic growth and jobs, so that people are better able to respond to the changing economic needs and opportunities of their area.” The government wants to help coastal communities “unleash their growth potential” and to benefit from the growth in Crown Estate revenues associated with coastal and offshore resources. £23.7 million has been committed to support the fund in 2012/13. Capital and revenue bids can be made for amounts in excess of £50,000 with a deadline for expressions of interest of the 27 April 2012. The prospectus states that “we expect there will be at least two future years of funding commencing in 2013 and 2014.”

Rural Economy Grant
Grants of between £25,000 and around £1 million are available to enable “significant game-changing, transformational performance in farm, forestry, tourism, agri-food and micro businesses in rural areas.” Grants will be a maximum of 40% of project costs and must be matched by private funds. Outline applications need to be submitted by 30 April and applications in upland and Rural Growth Network areas will be prioritised.

Rural Growth Network Pilots
Defra has announced that 6 Rural Growth Networks will be established utilising a funding pot of £15 million. These Networks will:
• consist of small enterprise hubs on underused business parks or brownfield sites
• provide infrastructure, premises and a simplified planning regime
• offer enhanced networking within and between hubs
• provide targeted support to women-led enterprises
The approved networks are as follows: Cumbria, Devon & Somerset, Durham & Northumberland, Coventry & Warwickshire and Swindon & Wiltshire. Final details of the schemes to operate in each Network are currently being agreed.

Government response to the Portas Review
‘High Streets at the Heart of our Communities’ was published as the formal response to the Portas Review at the end of March 2012. As part of this response, the opportunity to become one of a further 12 Town Team pilots in England has been announced worth up to £100,000 each. Applications, including a supporting video, need to be submitted by 30 June 2012 and unsuccessful bids from round 1 will automatically be considered. A £10 million ‘High Street Innovation fund’ has also been announced for 100 local authorities to help address the issues of riots and empty shops.

Regional Growth Fund
£1 billion is available across England through Round 3 of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). This supports projects and programmes that lever private sector investment to create economic growth and sustainable employment. It aims particularly to help those areas and communities which were dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable private sector-led growth and prosperity. Completed applications are required by 13 June 2012.

Prince’s Countryside Fund
Grants of up to £50,000 are available for projects which improve the sustainability of the British countryside by:
• Improving the viability of British farming targeting the areas of greatest need
• Improving the sustainability of rural communities targeting the areas of greatest need
• Reconnecting people with the countryside
Applications are required by 13 April 2012.

Invest in Innovative Refurb
This £10 million programme is funded by the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) to introduce new energy efficient technologies and processes into the refurbishment of non-domestic buildings with the aim of reducing the CO2 emissions of the existing building stock. This competition will run in 2 tranches of £5 million each, the first of which opens on 30 April with registrations required by 6 June and applications by 13 June. Up to £1 million is available for delivery.

Organisations can bid for Communitybuilders Feasibility Grants up to 13 April 2012. Feasibility grants of a total of £0.5 million will be available for organisations looking to research and develop a sustainable and entrepreneurial idea that meets social needs of their local community.
Between 20 and 30 grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 will be awarded and up to 5 days business support to high quality applicants with a proven track record in this round of the Fund.

Inspired Facilities Fund
Through this fund, Sport England aims to provide capital grants to help refurbish or upgrade sports facilities, or convert an existing building into a venue suitable for sport and accessible to the whole community. To qualify for this competitive fund, applicants will need to:
• Show how the project will keep and, ideally, attract more people to sport
• Demonstrate that it is needed and wanted by the local community
• Explain how it will cover its running costs and remain open for sporting use for years to come
The next round closes on 17 September 2012.

Rural Community Broadband Fund
£20 million is available for communities in hard to reach areas to establish super fast broadband. Grants of up to 50% are available. The first round for Expressions of Interest closed on 31 January 2012. A second round is expected to open in May 2012.

Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme
Up to £20 million announced in November 2011 available as small grants to help farmers, foresters and horticultural businesses improve their competitiveness.

Post 2013 EU Structural Funds - Consultation
This informal consultation seeks initial views on delivery options for European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF), European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period commencing in 2014. The consultation closes on 27 April 2012.

2012 Changes to the Building Regulations in England – Consultation
Consultation was launched on 31 January 2012 on changes to Building Regulations. The consultation is in four sections and closes on 27 April 2012.

Changes to National Park Governance – Consultation
A number of changes which the government has previously proposed to be introduced with regard to National Park governance require amendments to primary legislation. Views have now been invited on these changes which include the ability of National Parks to include directly elected members, relaxing the political balance requirements on local authorities when appointing members to a National Park and applying a maximum length of service of 8 years. The consultation runs until 31 May 2012.

The New Home Bonus Scheme Grant Determination 2012-13
Details of the New Home Bonus scheme allocations were announced by the Minister of State for Housing and Local Government on 1 February 2012.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programmes 2007/13 – Calls for proposals
A number of calls for proposals under ERDF programmes in different parts of the country can be active at any one time. For your area, check the website below.


Opportunity or not?
A short monthly discussion item aimed at highlighting a particular opportunity. This month’s topic:

Enterprise hubs
A new opportunity for areas designated as Rural Growth Networks will be presented by the establishment of ‘enterprise hubs.’ A number of different approaches are likely to be taken to provide facilities and services which aim to support the growth of new and existing businesses. For areas without a Growth Network a lot of lessons should be learned around what works and what doesn’t.
The opportunity created by this focus on rural enterprise can be further extended by ensuring that effective links are made with other existing hubs of enterprising activity in rural areas such as clusters of converted farm buildings, small managed workspace schemes and home-working or live-work clusters. Future schemes which can tap into enterprise hub activity could also benefit and an opportunity exists to facilitate real growth in many parts of rural areas. There will be many different views on the precise nature of any support which should be provided but it seems sensible to ensure that new and existing enterprise hubs work as effectively together as possible.

There is clearly an opportunity for Defra funded enterprise hubs to adopt a role which supports a wide range of new and growing business activity. This opportunity should surely be grabbed.