Business hubs to back rural economic growth
Rural Growth Networks are being created to support countryside businesses and grow the rural economy, the Government has announced.
The £15 million pilot project will help rural areas overcome barriers to growth, such as a lack of suitable premises, and poor provision of infrastructure, such as superfast broadband and mobile networks
The project includes £2.3 million to support rural enterprises led by women.
Businesses in Rural Growth Networks will enjoy preferential status when applying for grants from Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England.
Rural Growth Networks will consist of a small number of sites on underused business parks, brownfield sites or sites which already have outline planning permission for commercial or industrial development.
Each hub will be suitable for between ten and 20 micro or small enterprises.
Richard Benyon, rural affairs minister, said: “Rural businesses face particular challenges – a lack of business premises, slow internet connection and fragmented business networks are some of them.
“The Rural Growth Networks will help to tackle these problems so that more rural business can start up and grow, giving a boost to local communities and unlocking the economic potential of rural areas.”
Enterprise hubs could be generic or focus on a particular sector, for instance local food, advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, IT or creative/media industries.
Defra anticipates that each pilot scheme will be run in cooperation with a council or Local Enterprise Partnership who will supply business advice and provide workplaces and infrastructure to rural businesses.
Applications will be considered on a competitive basis and Defra will announce the six successful schemes that will each deliver a Rural Growth Network in March.