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Suffolk’s ‘wool towns’ urged to apply for share of £1.75million grant

12:37 21 March 2016

Lavenham is one of the villages that is applying for funding under the Suffolk

Lavenham is one of the villages that is applying for funding under the Suffolk 'wool towns' project

Archant

The county’s ‘wool towns’ are being invited to apply for a share of £1.75million to support rural economic development and fund a rebranding project to attract more tourists to the area.

The grant, which has just been secured from a European funding scheme, is open to businesses and groups in villages such as Long Melford, Lavenham and Finchingfield in north Essex, which have historic links to the wool trade.

Suffolk County Council originally asked for £2.2m from the LEADER programme for its ‘Suffolk wool towns’ project. Last night Andy Cuthbertson, the programme’s manager for the county council, confirmed £1.75million for the wool towns and a further £1.85million for Suffolk’s heritage coast had now been signed off.

Individual businesses, town or parish councils and organisations can submit ideas for grants of up to £100,000.

A specially elected panel – or Local Action Group (LAG) – made up of people from the public, private and voluntary sector who live and work in the area will judge the ideas against six different criteria, with the first being reviewed in May.

Successful projects will be funded on a 50/50 split, with the applicant providing their share in either cash or resources.

The grant is for projects that increase farm productivity, encourage micro farm diversification such as creating a farm shop, support rural tourism by investing in the wool towns as a brand, or help provide rural services including adding post offices to village halls.

Projects that support cultural and heritage activities such as festivals and events, and those that increase forestry productivity also stand a chance of gaining funding. Mr Cuthbertson said the money was open to people in south Suffolk and north Essex, including the Babergh and Braintree district council areas, and parts of Colchester Borough, St Edmundsbury, Mid Suffolk and Tendring.

“The grants are a maximum of £100,000 for any one project, and £35,000 is considered a large grant,” Mr Cuthbertson said. “If it’s a project that doesn’t require match funding and isn’t linked to one business, it stands a chance of getting a 100% grant. The size of grant we would give to a business would depend on the number of jobs the project would create.”

Mr Cuthberston said villages like Lavenham, which were “forward thinking in terms of tourism” were already looking at ways to pick up on the funding opportunity. He urged others to follow suit and get in touch for guidance on the kind of schemes that were likely to succeed.

He added: “We will be employing a facilitator who can talk through ideas and help bring forward good projects.

“So far we have had applications from farmers who want to diversify or invest in innovative new equipment and we have had interest from community pubs and applications for holiday accommodation. The main message is that we are open for business and people should contact us with their ideas.”

Email ruraldevelopment@suffolk.gcsx.gov.uk or google ‘Suffolk wool towns LEADER funding’ for more details.

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