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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Leader fund helping rural businesses to diversify

 

A remote farm near Macclesfield where the owners are diversifying into tourism, is among five projects to benefit from a rural funding programme in Cheshire East.

Both Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester councils have worked in partnership to issue ‘Leader’ grants of almost £274,000 to aid nine rural businesses under the government’s Rural Development Programme for England.

The money has helped to create more than 39 full-time jobs, since it was introduced in Cheshire a year ago.

A grant to Whitelee Farm, in Wincle, will enable the owners to set up ‘off-grid’ tourist accommodation with the purchase of two luxury ‘shepherds huts’.

The huts will enable tourists to enjoy a total escape from the pace and distractions of everyday life, including general noise and light pollution. 

There are no telephones or wi-fi in the huts and so the farm hopes to attract visitors who simply want to get away from it all. 

But they will contain some luxuries such as a log-burning stove and a wet room.

Emma Heald, who submitted the grant application on behalf of the farm, said: “When looking to the future of the farm, a big challenge we faced was how to fund the initiatives needed to create a sustainable family business for future generations.

“We found that working with the Cheshire East Leader team an extremely positive experience.

“They guided us through what has been an intensive and, in our case, an ultimately rewarding process.”

The shepherds huts will create a manager’s position, while in Marbury two full-time posts have been generated through the creation of a new equestrian centre at Townley Farm. A disused farm building was converted to include stables, indoor and outdoor manages, washrooms, tack rooms and a solarium.

Among the nine projects approved for funding across Cheshire, Warrington and Dunham Massey, are the expansion of an existing caravan park, help to set up an equestrian centre and support for a business to produce specialised farming equipment designed to improve animal welfare.

Councillor Janet Clowes, cabinet member for rural affairs, said: “The Leader programme is uniquely positioned to help a wide range of rural businesses and organisation in Cheshire East, owing to its locally-delivered nature.

“It is extremely encouraging to see the diverse range of projects that have been approved for funding in the programme’s first year.

“Following the Chancellor’s statement guaranteeing European funding until the point of withdrawal from the European Union, the LEADER team are keen to hear from anyone seeking capital grand funding for projects that will benefit the rural economy.”

The Leadeer programme, which spans Cheshire East, Warrington and Cheshire West and Chester, aims to help create jobs and stimulate economic growth in the rural economy and is delivered at local level rather than at national level.

A local action group of key representatives from various organisations meets to determine grant applications.

Details on the programme’s requirements as well as the sort of costs it can contribute towards can be found on the Cheshire Leader website, which gives details for Leader programmes in both Cheshire East and CWAC: www.cheshireleaderfund.co.uk, or contact Sean Bell, the Cheshire Leader Support Officer, on sean.bell@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk or 01244 973824 for more information.

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