RDPE to continue, but at reducedlevel 

RDPE to continue, but at reduced level

14 March 2011

A popular and successful funding and advice programme for rural
businesses and communities in the South West is set to continue,
but with a lower budget overall following wider reductions in
Government spending.  There will also be some other changes to
the programme as it moves towards national delivery arrangements
from this summer.

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) is an EU and
UK Government funded programme designed to improve the
competitiveness and sustainability of rural businesses, safeguard
and enhance the countryside and help rural communities to thrive.
Since its launch in 2008, it has been delivered in this region by
the South West Regional Development Agency, the Forestry Commission
and Natural England, with the Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) as its managing authority.

With the impending abolition of all the regional development
agencies, the socio-economic elements and community-led Leader
approach (so-called Axes 1, 3 and 4) of the Programme will in
future be delivered directly by Defra at national level.  This
change is due to take effect from 1 July 2011.

Defra has been able to make a commitment to continue funding all
parts (Axes) of the RDPE for the remainder of the Programme. 
However, given significant constraints on public spending the
Department has had to reduce budgets in some areas, and this means
that funding will be under increased pressure for the rest of the
Programme period through to 2013.

Defra will be retaining a limited budget provision for priority
projects which may not be able to be funded within regional budgets
in the year ahead.  Detailed criteria are still under
discussion, but we understand the process will initially be managed
through RDAs. Resources will be very limited, and competition for
the available funding will be significant.

“For the South West RDA and our delivery partners in the South
West, this, our third full year of the programme (2010/11) has been
our busiest so far, with more than £30m to be spent in support of
our rural economy and communities,” said Andrew Slade, Executive
Director, Programmes and Partnerships at the South West RDA.

“Demand for RDPE funding has been and remains high. The amount
of money available to support new proposals has come under
increased pressure as part of the need to reduce Government
spending.  Although at just over £31 million our allocation
will be the largest of all the regions’ – more than a quarter of
total RDPE regional expenditure in England – this is still some way
short of the £40 million or more we had been planning to spend
across the South West in 2011/12.  Much of our allocation will
be taken up with RDPE projects that have already been approved.

“We will try to keep as many parts of the Programme as possible
open to new applications, but remaining funding (‘headroom’) in the
year ahead for new projects outside Cornwall and the Isles of
Scilly will now be limited. Some elements of the Programme need to
be temporarily suspended, and competition for grant in other areas
will inevitably become more intense. We will be targeting available
funds on key Programme areas in line with Ministerial priorities,
and would advise anyone considering submitting an application
outside to discuss their plans with us before they undertake any
further work.”

Further information

Following a Written Ministerial Statement about future delivery
of the RDPE by Minister of State  for Agriculture and Food,
Jim Paice MP, to the House of Commons on 28 February, the South
West RDA wrote to stakeholders, outlining future RDPE delivery plans.

Since its launch in 2008, interest in the RDPE in the South West
has been extremely high. Over the past three years, more than £105m
of funding has been committed to projects in line with priorities
set out in the South West’s Regional Implementation Plan. 
During that time, the Programme has helped a variety of farming and
other rural businesses and communities by providing support to
projects, including those addressing animal health & welfare,
skills development & knowledge transfer, resource efficiency,
nutrient management, farm diversification, micro-enterprises, rural
tourism and support for rural communities to secure local
facilities. More than 2000 farms have received a free advice visit
to help them improve resource efficiency while Local Action Groups
have approved more than 600 projects. More than 150 direct main
programme grants have been offered to businesses and over 400
Small
Capital Grants have been awarded. The new Regional Skills framework
(which builds on the previous success of the Vocational Training
Scheme) ran 130 training activities between September and December
2010, attracting more than 900
participants.                             

”Our challenge is to continue to manage our remaining regional
budgets effectively, targeting them on key Ministerial priorities,
while also managing a smooth transfer of the Programme from the RDA
to Defra,” Mr Slade said.

“Over coming months, working closely with the Department, we
will continue to address the needs of applicants and project
partners as far as we can, to minimise any disruption to the
Programme, and to try and answer any concerns people may
have. 

(ends)

Note to editors

News note prepared by Hilary Allison at the South West RDA on
07901 994103. For further information, please contact
Hilary. 

RDPE is the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
2007-2013: Europe investing in rural areas. In England, the
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development 2007-2013 is
delivered through the Rural Development Programme for England
(RDPE). It is an important part of the Common Agricultural Policy
and helps create genuinely sustainable farming, forestry and food
sectors, whilst bringing wider benefits for the economy, the
environment and rural communities. It is the European Union’s major
investment route for protecting and enhancing the environment while
securing a range of public benefits for society. Defra is the
Managing Authority and is delivered in the region by the South West
RDA, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

Jim Paice MP’s statement to the House of Commons on the future
delivery of the RDPE and on budget allocations can be found at:
www.publications.parliament.uk

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
Caroline Spelman, announced on 10 March 2011 a new package of
national measures funded partly through the RDPE to support hill
farmers and uplands communities.  Further details can be found
at: ww2.defra.gov.uk.