Agency welcomes rural funding boost

A GOVERNMENT move to increase grant funding to up to 100% for rural development projects has been welcomed by the chair of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

A GOVERNMENT move to increase grant funding to up to 100% for rural development projects has been welcomed by the chair of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced on Thursday that the funding restriction would be lifted on a range of grants from 50% to 100% of the cost of each project funded under the government's �3.9billion Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), part of which is managed by regional development agencies.

EEDA chair Richard Ellis said it was “good news” for rural businesses in the region. “We are very pleased that the Environment Secretary has responded to our request to raise the funding limit,” he said.

“This gives us greater flexibility when awarding grants through the scheme and will mean that projects that can demonstrate a need for the higher level of funding can now be considered through RDPE.”

The announcement would also help to support future growth sectors in the regional economy, such as renewables, bio-tech and low-carbon projects, including those with a commitment to resource efficiency, he said.

“It will make it easier for rural businesses that are looking to diversify or capitalise on the opportunities presented by these new emerging sectors to access funds,” he added.

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He pointed out that a recent independent study showed that EEDA was having a “significant and positive” impact on the regional economy. A recently published independent report by PA Consulting and SQW showed a return of �4.75 for every �1 invested and that further benefits are likely to see a return of �7.60 for every �1 spent.”

“The relaxation in the funding limit for RDPE projects will give EEDA greater spending power and increase our ability to help both alleviate the effects of the recession and generate future economic growth and prosperity in the East of England,” he said.