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RDPE Network Newsletter: January


Welcome to the January 2020 edition of the RDPE Network Newsletter with information about what’s new in the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
This edition focuses on the socio-economic schemes within the RDPE, with information on the current calls for the Growth Programme, a review of some of the recent Countryside Productivity schemes and a reflection on LEADER from some of the Local Action Groups.

If you’re keen to hear more about agri-environmental schemes, we will be publishing a dedicated agri-environmental newsletter in the spring.

In this edition we give more information about:

EU Exit Update
Growth Programme – application open!
Countryside Productivity
Animal Health Advisory Services – free bespoke advice available!
Monitoring and Evaluation
RDPE Away Day to the Cotswolds
Defra at agricultural events

 EU Exit Update

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, RDPE will continue to draw on EU funds until available funding has been exhausted.
It remains the case that all RDPE agreements where funding has been agreed before 31 December 2020, will be fully funded, for the lifetime of agreements.

Growth Programme

The RDPE Growth Programme is investing £254.5m into getting new rural businesses off the ground and helping existing businesses to develop new products and facilities. It is supporting food processing and promoting rural tourism, as well as providing superfast broadband connectivity to some of England’s most remote rural areas. Local Enterprise Partnerships and other local partners help us decide how to spend funds in their area.

The third and final round of calls under the RDPE Growth Programme is now open.
This is a national-level call, offering a minimum of £35m to rural businesses. Grants from £20,000 to £180,000 are available for rural Tourism Infrastructure and rural Business Development projects, while food processing projects are able to apply for grants from £20,000 to £750,000.

For this funding round of the RDPE Growth Programme, the threshold for minimum grants has been reduced from £35,000 to £20,000 meaning that more small or micro-businesses can be eligible for grants.
Applicants need to submit an Expression of Interest to the Rural Payments Agency by Sunday 16 February 2020 outlining how they would use a grant to grow their business and deliver local priorities and national scheme objectives such as creating new jobs, increasing business turnover and improving productivity. Eligible projects will then be asked to submit a Full Application.  

In line with the Government’s funding guarantee, all grant awards will be contracted by end December 2020.

The Rural Payments Agency is putting on workshops to provide guidance and information on submitting an Expression of Interest for Growth Programme funding. Follow this link to find out what workshops are taking place near you.

Overall, under the RDPE Growth Programme £58 million has so far been paid to projects and 1,098 FTE jobs have been created with a further 3,863 jobs contracted.

Click here to apply and for further information
Case Study - Little’s Ltd, Willand, Devon
Grant amount: £56,762                 Total cost: £141,907
Little’s Ltd is a family business, trading in instant coffee for over 30 years.
Little’s Ltd produces flavoured instant coffee and premium single origin coffees. They purchase a very high quality freeze dried instant coffee and then add natural flavours to a range of 13 products, they also buy high quality premium freeze dried coffees which they fill into 50g jars.
Little’s supplies a number of large chain companies, such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Holland & Barrett.

Little’s wanted to expand their existing business and supply products to an ever expanding market. There was demand in the market for own label instant coffee, requiring 100g jars.
The grant funding was used to purchase a new production line which was more efficient, quicker and can handle both 50g jars and the new 100g jars.
This has enabled them to launch four premium products and four decaf products. They have recruited:
  • 1 full time operative on a permanent contract;
  • 1 admin person;
  • 1 marketing person;
  • 1 part time operative: and
  • 1 consultant as General Manager.
Little’s project growth in sales from £1.6m in 2019 to £2.2m in 2022.
 Countryside Productivity 

The RDPE Countryside Productivity Scheme is providing £145m for projects in England which improve productivity in the farming and forestry sectors and help create jobs and growth in the rural economy.  Overall, we have committed £117m to productivity enhancing projects to date, with over £58m already paid out to beneficiaries and a further £59m legally contracted. 
Small grants

£22 million was awarded to farmers to boost productivity in autumn 2019

More than 3,600 farmers are set to benefit from £22 million in productivity-boosting equipment from round two of RDPE Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme.

New items were added for the second round of the Small Grants Scheme, including equipment that could help minimise soil compaction in fields, monitor ammonia levels in farm buildings and increase machinery precision when applying slurry.
So far, £37 million has been allocated to farmers in the scheme’s first two funding rounds, with a third and final funding round expected to open in autumn 2020.

Farmers with grant awards are encouraged to make early orders to leave time for deliveries to arrive and payment claims to be processed by the end of May 2020.

More information on the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme can be found here.
Large Grants
Improving Farm Productivity
Improving Farm Productivity (IFP) was one of the themes that made up the Countryside Productivity Large Grants scheme. These provided grants for a minimum of £35,000 to help farmers invest in larger pieces of equipment or other new and innovative processes.
This theme closed to new applicants on the 3rd December 2018.
We have now contacted all eligible applicants and are in the process of confirming the final contracts. 
We are providing £27 million to more than 200 projects.
The most popular type of project was for robotic milking; we are investing more than £18m in over 150 projects to improve efficiency in the dairy business. The new robots will improve monitoring of cow health, labour efficiency, and yield which will improve overall farm efficiency and productivity.
We are also investing over £2.5m on improving slurry application equipment. This will not only deliver significant savings on fertiliser for the farmer, it will also reduce ammonia emissions and mean that cattle can graze treated grassland earlier than with previous methods.

Further information on all the Countryside Productivity schemes is available on GOV.UK
Case study
Fred Simcock, is a dairy farmer of 600 cows in Herefordshire. The farm was operating a herringbone parlour and in need of modernisation. Through the Improving Farm Productivity grant the farm received £532,212 of RDPE funding towards the installation of ten Lely milking robots, three feed pushers and six robotic barn cleaners.

So far they have installed seven of the robots, and although the full savings will take time to be realised, this modernisation of the farm has already given them hope for the future. Fred reports that the cows have taken well to the milking robots; and the new system has enabled later starts and earlier finishes to the day, improving working conditions for staff. Moreover, the robotic barn cleaners have also allowed for savings on fuel, labour and water.
Fred said, ‘I’m really chuffed with the whole system.’
LEADER is a £152m scheme, delivered through 79 LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs) in rural areas, intended to meet local priorities as identified in each group’s own Local Development Strategy.
To date, a total of 3,550 projects, worth £125.95m, have already been contracted. In terms of job creation, these contracted projects will deliver a total of 5,469 jobs (1,620 of which have already been created) against an original target of 2,675.
The LEADER groups have achieved an outstanding amount since the scheme was launched in 2015, both in delivering to budget and ensuring we maximise the funds available for use in rural communities. The dedicated support from the groups and their Programme Managers and Officers has resulted in a wide and diverse range of projects.
We are reaching a stage where LEADER groups have mostly committed their funding, although some further projects will still come through as small amounts of unused funding are returned to a group’s own budget. Therefore, it is an opportune time to hear from those in the LEADER groups about their reflections of the scheme since its launch. 

In terms of future funding, Defra is working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as it develops plans for the proposed new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is intended to succeed EU Structural and Investment Funds when these come to an end after the UK has left the EU. We are supporting LEADER groups, through channels such as the LEADER Exchange Group, and other stakeholders to make the case for future involvement of rural communities in the design and delivery of Government-funded support to rural businesses and communities.

Further information on LEADER is available on GOV.UK.

Jo Burgon – Chair, Cotswold LEADER group

As my involvement as Chair of the Cotswolds LEADER Local Action Group draws to a close, it is a good moment to reflect on what has been achieved for the Cotswolds in the public investment made for rural based businesses, communities and the environment. The headline figures for the LEADER programme across England is impressive. For the Cotswolds, 56 projects have been supported across the six investment themes with grants worth £1.7 million creating 80 jobs.
But these figures do not reveal the true significance of what this support has meant to small rural businesses, communities and the Cotswolds wider landscape. It is not until you start talking to beneficiaries and seeing what they have achieved that you realise how important the awarding of a grant has been to them. Small amounts of grant can go a long way for a start-up business, for a community that wants to improve facilities in its village or for refreshing a well-established family business with a new enterprise.
All the projects we have supported in the Cotswolds LAG area, which went beyond the boundaries of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, have, at their heart, passion. Without passion, enthusiasm and commitment from the applicants, we would still be struggling to reach our targets. This funding of passion and enterprise has been invigorating and inspiring. It bodes well for these projects.
My hope is that in the future any new funding models will be framed in a similar way, as empowering, not dependency related.
Karen Lawrenson – Programme Manager, Lancashire LEADER groups
The transition period between programmes was incredibly helpful.  It enabled us to hit the ground running, unlike the 2008-2013 programme when we were new to Leader and it took 18 months to receive our first applications.  We opened in December 2015 and by March 2016 we had received 20 full applications.  By mid-2018 most of our funding had been allocated, which was fantastic.
The continuity between LAG members from one programme to the next was also extremely helpful as we were able to retain the skills, knowledge and expertise required to make decisions quickly and effectively.  We also recruited a number of beneficiaries from the previous programme to represent the private sector, which has worked really well.
Initially we found the paperwork and processes a little overwhelming but, on reflection, I do think that the processes have enabled us to get good quality projects and reduce the risk of fraud. 
We have funded a diverse range of businesses including:

  • The installation of an accessible hydrotherapy pool at Brickhouse Farm Holiday Cottages who provide holiday accommodation for guests with a range of disabilities.
  • Shepherd huts at a historic house to enable them to provide accommodation for wedding guests and also develop year round trade.
  • Machinery to peel whole carrots and the installation of a cold store at Huntapac.
Cathy Miles and Sarah Thiele - Programme Manager and Programme Officer, Rural Surrey LEADER

In Surrey, the key rural issues are the loss of traditional farming businesses, the lack of management of woodlands in this heavily wooded county and the fragmentation of communities with the economic draw and proximity of London.  LEADER funding has been able to address some of these issues. 

For example, Surrey LEADER has funded projects which allow farms to develop new precision farming technologies such as fertiliser spreaders and no-till drills for increased efficiency and management of resources.  LEADER has also funded businesses to bring greater areas of woodland into management, including new forestry machinery to improve the safety and efficiency of timber extraction.

Funding has been used to improve locally valued facilities such as solar power for an off-grid village hall, to allow year-round use and to generate an income.  In addition, the scheme has funded a significant number of small businesses located within rural communities. This creates new jobs and brings economic growth into remote areas, reducing the fragmentation of villages as work becomes available locally. Funding for a distillery to install a semi-automatic bottling line has allowed the business to expand into international markets. This distillery is located in a redundant farm yard, which is now attracting other artisan businesses, turning it into a local food and drink tourist destination.

The delivery mechanism for LEADER has been very successful. The local team has worked directly with applicants to support and encourage them through the, often onerous, application process along with a local group of experts making informed decisions about local needs.
Members of the Rural Surrey LEADER LAG at Silent Pool Distillery, one of the small business recipients of a grant.
Animal Health Advisory Services

TB Advisory Service

Cattle farmers across the High Risk and Edge Areas of England are eligible to receive FREE, bespoke advice on practical, cost-effective measures to reduce the risks associated with TB.

The TB Advisory Service offers one-to-one on-farm advice visits, where experienced advisors can provide bespoke recommendations to prevent TB incursions in herds that are currently clear, whilst discussing trading options and measures to prevent repeated reinfection for farms that are currently under TB restrictions. A telephone advice service and ‘drop-in clinics’ are also available for farmers with specific questions about bovine TB and biosecurity.

So far the project has completed over 1200 farm advice visits, and will run until the end of 2020.

Farmers can contact the Bovine TB Advisory Service on 01306 779410 or email
BVD Stamp it out

This project aims to improve farm productivity in England, by achieving a reduction in the level of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in cattle. 

Farmers can apply now for FREE one-to-one farm advisory visits by a veterinary practitioner, until 1st May 2021.

As well as one-to-one farm advice, the project also delivers group sessions, along with some diagnostic testing.
The idea is that farmers can follow the project through a number of interactions and become free of and stay free of BVD.

BVD is a viral disease which can have a significant economic and health impact on both dairy and beef cattle.  The disease is immunosuppressant so “opens the door” to other health and productivity issues. 

The project was launched in May 2018 and is worth over £6.9m.  SAC Consulting Ltd, who run the project, subcontract the delivery on the ground out to local vets.  This means that farmers can get involved through their normal vet, and that a consistent service across England is delivered.

More information is available at
 Monitoring and Evaluation
The RDPE Monitoring & Evaluation team hosted a successful and enjoyable Evaluation Capacity Building Event in Birmingham in November.

The English team hosted representatives from the Rural Development Programmes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The focus was on sharing progress and lessons learnt from mid-term evaluations of each Rural Development Programme.

Monitoring & Evaluation is important because it provides assurance that we’re delivering the right outcomes and provides insights into which elements of our Programme are having the greatest impact, and why. Where evidence gaps do exist, these were examined and solutions were brain stormed.

The event was an opportunity for the devolved administrations to learn from each other, and share aspects of our programmes that have worked particularly well.
 RDPE Away Day 

On a grey September morning, members of the RDPE team made their way to the beautiful Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We were met by members of the Cotswolds Conservation Board, who act as the Local Action Group (LAG) for the Cotswolds AONB, who greeted us with hot coffee and croissants upon arrival.

Our first stop was to Cotswolds Seeds at Honeydale farm, the soon to be FarmED education centre for diverse farming. We had a great discussion sitting in the middle of the LEADER-funded education centre. Ian Wilkinson, Director of Cotswolds seeds, explained to us how the project will promote diverse farming, with the aims to increase soil fertility and create a self-sufficient and regenerative farming system. Ian says, “We want to support people and accelerate change, creating this space where people can be innovative.”

Down the road, we visited another construction site, this time the soon-to-be Bledington Community Shop. It was wonderful to see how LEADER funding had enabled the project idea to grow into a fully functional community centre, and how it has united the village, making use of local people’s skills and passion to ensure the success of this project. The community shop will act as a hub, providing locals with a place to meet and the opportunity to purchase the best of fresh local produce.

Next, we wound our way through the beautiful countryside to the very exciting project of Jive Pony. Here Rebecca and her husband Bryn had received funding towards a new training barn with a dedicated training space, stables and a tack room with washroom facilities. Rebecca described how the LEADER funding had enabled her to turn her dream of running an equestrian business on her doorstep into a reality, giving a team of local workers the opportunity of joining this exciting venture.

Our final stop was to the farm shop and café, Vegetable Matters, located near the stunning village of Ebrington. This excellent establishment offering a daily supply of fresh vegetables from the surrounding farms has not only created many jobs, but is also working with other local producers stimulating the rural economy. The café, with its impressive array of locally-sourced produce and meals, again provides a community hub and a boost to the tourism industry. It is a key stopping place on many local walking routes.
Vegetable Matters farm shop
 Defra At Agricultural Events 

Defra will be attending the Farm Update North Events. These are a series of free events which are held to update farmers, landowners, forestry and woodland managers, and anyone interested in rural matters on the latest business, environmental and regulatory developments. A FREE lunch is offered to delegates and Basis and NRoSO points will also be available.

The Farm Update North 2020 events will take place in Alnwick, Hexham and Newton Aycliffe, featuring speakers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, the Farming Advice Service, National Farmers Union, Forestry Commission, Natural England, and Northumbrian Water.

Register for any of these events online by clicking on any of the links below.
  • 29 January - Woodham Golf & Country Club, Newton Aycliffe, DL5 4PN -    
  • 5 February - Alnwick Rugby Club, Greensfield Ave. Alnwick, NE66 1BE -     
  • 10 February - Hexham Auction Mart, Tynedale Suite, Hexham, NE46 3SE -
Have you received funding through an RDPE scheme to support a project?
We are always looking to collect further case study information from beneficiaries to better understand the work and impact of projects, and to support our networking activities.
If you would like to share your story with us, please provide the following and we will be in contact to discuss further:

  • Name of your project:
  • Funding scheme:
  • Contact details:
If you would like to contribute information to this newsletter or have ideas and feedback on its development we’d like to hear from you.
Email:, call 0208 2256446 or Tweet us @RDPENetwork.
Previous editions of this newsletter are available here.
Best regards,
Matthew Jesse
RDPE Network Co-ordinator
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