A grant scheme supporting rural businesses in parts of Devon and Somerset has awarded more than £1.5 million of funding over the past two years - becoming the top performing LEADER Local Action Group in the country.
The Making it Local LEADER Local Action Group, which is part of the LEADER European rural development funding programme, has now closed to new applications, having provided support to over 50 projects.
To mark its success, the project, which covers East Devon, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and six parishes in Mid Devon, has visited a number of projects in Monkton, Axminster, and Musbury that have received funding.
It has also held a celebratory event at Seaton Tramway’s new Terminal building, showcasing businesses that have been supported through the programme, with talks from LittlePod, Gittisham Farm, Good Game and Seaton Tramway on the impact the funding had made. The event was attended by Neil Parish MP for Tiverton and Honiton.
Among those to have benefited from funding from Making It Local are:
Axminster Heritage. This project has restored an 18th century dye house, and is part of a much larger project to create a visitor centre based on the town's carpet heritage.
John Church, Chair of Trustees at Axminster Heritage, said: "The invaluable support and guidance we have received from Making It Local is helping us to create a community and tourist centre to celebrate Axminster’s heritage. Our extensive and varied range of community, cultural and heritage activities -including workshops, films, talks, outings and craft events- is already well supported by local residents. We are looking forward to when we open fully next spring."
Haye Farm in Musbury. This organic farm has received funding towards a processing plant, to make its own produce from its livestock and vegetables.
Harry Boglione, from Haye Farm, said: “Making it Local has given us the opportunity to develop our building which has enabled us to evolve our business – leading to more projects and developing more elements to the business so it’s given us that headstart that we might not necessarily have had without funding from Making it Local.”
Coastal Craft Collective in Seaton has been supported to help refurbish its shop which sells products made by local crafts people. The business also runs workshops.
Linda Doughty, Owner and manager of the Coastal Craft Collective, said: “We wouldn't have been able to refurbish and develop this building to the standard that we have without the grant. It would also have taken a lot longer to develop our website and it wouldn’t have been as fit for purpose. We've developed it in a way that means we can run it day to day and keep it up to date which again makes things a little simpler in terms of getting our story out there.”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “The Making it Local action group has been a great success and it has deservedly become one of the LEADER programme’s top performing groups in the country. The funding has helped an incredible number of local businesses and organisations to expand, which is positive news to support the ongoing growth of the county’s economy.”
Councillor Paul Diviani, Chairman of Making it Local, said: “Our rural communities and businesses play a vital role in our local economy and the support from the Making it Local LEADER Local Action Group has had a tremendous impact to help many businesses to take the next step in their development.”
The aim of the LEADER grants programme is to improve the rural economy by supporting community led projects in England which create jobs, and help businesses and rural communities to grow.
The scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) run by DEFRA and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
To find out more about some of the other projects supported by the funding programme visit http://www.makingitlocal.org