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European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

The Rural Growth Programme provides funding for projects in England which create jobs and growth in the rural economy.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) delivers the grants, working with ESIF sub-committees in Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) areas. RPA’s role is to assess applications for grants, with advice from the ESIF sub-committees. SEMLEP's role is to decide local priorities for the grants.

Under the RDPE Growth Programme, there are grants for:

Business Development: Helping small rural businesses grow and create more jobs. SEMLEP's local priorities are: 

  • enabling farming businesses to diversify into non-agricultural activities
  • creating new services or manufacture of new products
  • creating one full-time equivalent job for every £25,000 or less of grant investment
  • creating apprenticeship jobs, lasting for a minimum of one year

For more information on the business development grants, view the handbook.

*Whilst applications for the present programme are now closed, we are retaining each of the handbook details for reference purposes.

Food Processing: Helping businesses to grow and creating more jobs. SEMLEP priorities are:

  • introducing new technologies, techniques or processes, increasing the productivity of the business
  • creating new higher-skilled jobs above the current average skill level of jobs in the applicant business
  • creating at least 1 full-time equivalent job for each £20,000 of grant investment
  • bringing locally distinctive foods to the market, that contribute to the unique food and drink offering of the SEMLEP area
  • opening new product markets to the business, potentially reducing the need for imports

For more information on the business development grants, view the handbook.

*Whilst applications for the present programme are now closed, we are retaining each of the handbook details for reference purposes.

Rural Tourism Infrastructure: encouraging more tourists to come, to stay longer and to spend more money in rural areas.

  • creating new visitor attractions and/or leisure activities, to increase the range and quality of the rural tourism offer
  • including the use of local suppliers, particularly for local food and drink
  • creating economic benefits to a number of business, not just the applicant business 
  • increasing the dwell-time of visitors
  • extend the visitor season between the months of October to March
  • developing infrastructure to connect rural tourism businesses, including - cycleways, footpaths and local tourism signage
  • creating long term sustainable jobs in the applicant business
  • creating quality serviced tourist accommodation, where there is clear evidence of need and will achieve formal accreditation through industry bodies
  • upgrading existing tourism accommodation to increase the current accreditation rating of the accommodation

For more information on the business development grants, view the handbook.

*Whilst applications for the present programme are now closed, we are retaining each of the handbook details for reference purposes.

Expression of Interest applications for Round 3 of the RDPE Growth Programme

The Rural Development Team are processing the expressions of interests (EOIs) received and will tell you the decision on your EOI as quickly as they can. They aim to make decisions on all the EOIs by mid-May.

If your EOI is successful they will send you advice on developing your project and will invite you to attend a Full Application workshop. As there will be competition for these grants you are strongly advised to attend one of the Full Application workshops.

The experience of previous applicants is that it will take you around three months to prepare a complete and good quality Full Application.

If your project needs planning permission and you have not already applied for it, you should do so now.  Where planning permission is required, a Full Application will not be accepted without it. Please do not wait for a decision on your EOI before submitting your planning application as you might run out of time to submit your Full Application.

Please note, do not start work, incur costs or place an order for any part of your proposed project. If you do this it will potentially make your whole project ineligible.

The application is in two stages. First, you must submit an ‘expression of interest’ (EOI) form. If your EOI is endorsed, you will be invited to submit a full application.

RPA will assess your application at both stages. At EOI stage, applications will be assessed as they are received. At full application stage, projects will be assessed in batches. Only the highest-scoring applications will be successful.

The expression of interest (EOI) form

You can find the EOI form on GOV.UK, or by clicking here. You’ll need to provide some information about your business, including:

  • whether it’s linked to any other businesses
  • turnover and balance sheet total from the most recent financial accounts
  • details of any previous public funding your business has had

You'll also need to provide information about your project, including:

  • what the objectives are and what the outputs will be
  • an overview of the costs
  • important dates for the project
  • how it fits with the local and national priorities for funding
  • the market demand for your project and its impact on similar businesses

How to submit your form

Email your form to

RPA can only accept forms that are:

  • sent by email
  • Microsoft Excel documents saved in the 1997-2003 XLS format

RPA cannot accept any other formats – including PDF documents, scanned documents, hard copy printed applications or hand-written applications.

You'll need to email your EOI from the email address you specify at question 5 of the EOI form. If an agent sends the form on your behalf, that address must be copied into the email.

What happens after you submit your EOI

After you submit the form, you’ll receive an automatic email to say it has been received. RPA will then assess your EOI and let you know whether or not you will be invited to submit a full application. 

Full application

If you’re invited to submit a full application, we’ll send you the relevant form and advice about how to fill this in. The form asks for full details about you, your business and your project, including:

  • final project costs
  • supplier details
  • key dates
  • proposed project outputs

You’ll also need to send: 

  • supporting documents appropriate to the project (such as market research, customer surveys, or industry reports)
  • business accounts for last 3 financial years (unless you are a new business)
  • relevant permissions and consents
  • 3 quotes for each item to be purchased
  • evidence that you can cover the project costs before claiming the grant in stages

There is potentially a lot of information, evidence and paperwork to collect. It can take 2 - 3 months for you to prepare your full application, possibly longer if you need planning permission.

You’ll be given a named contact at RPA to support you and answer questions. You’ll also be invited to attend a workshop, where RPA will explain the application process in more detail and answer any initial questions you have.

For more information, click here.

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