‘LEADER’ is a method of providing EU Rural Development Programme grant funding at the local level via a Local Action Group. It aims to address lagging economic performance, and the resultant social and environmental problems that this causes, in rural areas. Businesses and not for profit groups can identify and develop projects to address these issues and apply for grant funding to support them.
Rural businesses and communities in the New Forest benefitted from LEADER funding during 2002-2008 and again during 2008-2013.
In 2014, as part of a competitive bidding process, a partnership of the New Forest Local Action Group (LAG) and New Forest District Council successfully bid for £1.43 million of funding from the EU’s Rural Development Programme for the period 2015-2020.
The New Forest LEADER Local Development Strategy formed part of this bid. This document set out the economic needs and aspirations for the rural areas of the New Forest and was agreed through extensive consultation with local businesses, not for profit organisations and partner agencies.
The UK Government’s focus for the next Rural Development Programme is on jobs and growth with the following sectors being priority areas for support through the LEADER programme:
- Priority 1: Support to increase farm productivity
- Priority 2: Support for micro and small businesses (non-agricultural) and farm diversification
- Priority 3: Support for rural tourism
- Priority 4: Support for the provision of rural services
- Priority 5: Support for cultural and heritage activity
- Priority 6: Support for increasing forestry productivity