Suffolk/Norfolk: New Anglia LEP misses out on Rural Growth Fund cash

SUFFOLK and Norfolk have been left empty handed under a Government funding scheme which the Local Enterprise Partnership covering the two counties helped to develop.

New Anglia LEP had been seeking a �2.6million slice of the �15m Rural Growth Fund, to support regeneration on 14 industrial sites across the two counties which it was hoped would create around 700 new jobs.

But Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Caroline Spelman has instead chosen to share the pot of money between LEPs in Swindon and Wiltshire, Durham and Northumberland, Coventry and Warwickshire, Cumbria and Devon and Somerset.

New Anglia was one of four predominantly rural LEPs which worked with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to develop the Rural Growth Fund concept last year, but was told in December that it would have to take part in a competitive bidding process to secure any cash under the scheme.

The fund aims to enable businesses in rural areas to reach their potential by breaking down barriers to economic growth, such as a shortage of work premises, slow internet connection and fragmented business networks.

Locations for support proposed under the New Anglia bid included Brandon, Brantham, Clare/Glemsford, Eye, Framlingham, Haleworth, Stanton in Suffolk and Attleborough, Aylsham, Downham Market, Fakenham, Harleston, North Walsham and Swaffham in Norfolk.

It was hoped that a successful could also unlock further funding from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to help small businesses improve their skills, facilities and competitiveness.

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Andy Wood, chairman of New Anglia, said the LEP was “very disappointed” that it had not received the go-ahead for a Rural Growth Network bid.

“New Anglia had a strong proposal, a powerful commitment to the concept of a Rural Growth Network; a concept which we had helped create,” he said.

Ironically the funding blow comes 24 hours after New Anglia got a surprise �5.9m boost in the Chancellor’s Budget through the Growing Places Fund to kickstart stalled infrastructure project, and the partnership was also successful last year in securing an Enterprise Zone for part of the region.

Mr Wood added: “New Anglia has secured an Enterprise Zone in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, which will provide a wide range of benefits to energy and energy-related businesses which will grow 10,000 jobs by 2025.

“We have also secured �12m to help kick-start abandoned infrastructure projects and a further �6m from this Growing Places Fund. We will continue to make the case for the region in Whitehall, with vigour.”