LEADER and Local Action Group Funding

LEADER is a European funding scheme offering grants to support rural business and community development

What is LEADER Programme Funding?

LEADER is a community-led European funding programme that supports rural community development. The planning, decision making and implementation is done at a local level, carried out by a Local Action Group (LAG). The LAG is made up of private, public and community sector volunteers with a wide range of experience and knowledge of local rural issues in the LAG area.  Decisions on project funding are made by an Executive Committee, elected from the wider LAG.

This round of funds (2014 - 2020) is strongly focused on economic growth and jobs.  Each LAG will decide which projects it will fund in its area, based on its individual Local Development Strategy.

All grants are awarded by the European Union (EU) as part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).  The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the managing authority responsible for the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) 2014 - 2020.

What are Local Action Groups (LAGs)?

A Local Action Group brings together individuals from local public, private and civil societies who have been delegated powers of strategy and delivery.  Through an agreed Local Development Strategy LAGs are able to tackle important local priorities in a locally specific, innovative and participative way.

Local Action Groups cover specific geographic areas, which are not related to local authority boundaries, but may be based on other areas of local distinctiveness.  LAGs may include a maximum population of 150,000 within their area of coverage for grant funding, and larger urban areas are excluded from LAG geographies as the purpose is to support rural areas and priorities.

In Somerset there are currently five LAGs operating which cover the majority of the county, however there are some areas within Mendip and other parts of the county which are excluded, due to the maximum population thresholds.  The two LAGs which cover parts of Mendip and which will be able to offer grant funding from 2015 to eligible businesses and projects are:

What are the priorities for LEADER Programme funding?

Each LAG area has slightly different local objectives, however each encompasses the six LEADER programme priorities and projects applying  for funding must demonstrate that they fall under at least one of the following priority areas:

  • Support for increasing farm productivity
  • Support for micro and small enterprises and farm diversification
  • Support for rural tourism
  • Provision of rural services
  • Support for cultural and heritage activity
  • Support for increasing forestry productivity

Who can benefit?

Each LAG will be able to support innovative projects under each of the above priorities.

Eligible applicants may include farming and forestry enterprises, small businesses, tourism businesses and destinations, etc.  Projects which can directly demonstrate increased job numbers and/or increased productivity will be given priority.

Interested applicants should check first to see if their project will fall under a LAG area, and, if so, contact the programme managers at either Somerset Levels and Moors LAG or Heart of Wessex LAG to discuss further eligibility criteria.

How much grant funding can I apply for?

The minimum grant allocation will be £2,500 to be match funded by the applicant to create a minimum total project cost of £6,250.

The maximum grant allocation will be up to £100,000.  However  due to de minimus State Aid funding rules, a business must not exceed grant funding from this or any other European grant funding pot of over 200,000 Euros in any three year fiscal period.  For a more detailed discussion, please contact your Local LAG Programme Manager.

When can I apply?

Expressions of interest (EOIs) are currently being accepted by individual LAGs as they await the formal application forms from Defra.  It is anticipated that the first funding grants will be awarded in early 2016, although we are waiting for further details and confirmation from Defra.  Please visit the LAG websites regularly for further announcements.

Where can I find more information?

Somerset LEADER

Which areas of Mendip are eligible for grant funding?

Farming, forestry, tourism and rural businesses, community groups, charities and rural service providers who may wish to apply for project grant funding are encouraged to check if they are based within an eligible LAG area for support.

The Heart of Wessex Local Action Group (LAG) will be supporting LEADER funded projects across parts of Mendip and South Somerset districts, and the county of Wiltshire.  Eligible parishes within the Mendip area, for projects supported by the Heart of Wessex LAG are:

BaltonsboroughGreat ElmRode
BeckingtonHolcombeStoke St Michael
BerkleyKilmersdonStratton on the Fosse
Buckland DinhamLamyatTellisford
ColefordLullingtonUpton Noble
DitcheatMellsWest Bradley
DoultingMilton ClevedonWest Pennard
DownheadNorton St PhilipWhatley
East PennardNunneyWitham Friary

The Levels & Moors Local Action Group (LAG) will be supporting LEADER funded projects across parts of Mendip and South Somerset, Sedgemoor and Taunton Deane.

Eligible parishes within the Mendip area, for projects supported by the Levels & Moors Local LAG are:

GlastonburyRodney StokeWalton
MeareSt Cuthbert OutWestbury-sub-Mendip
North WoottonStreetWookey

Areas within Mendip which are out of scope of the existing LAGs in our area, and therefore ineligible for LEADER Funding are:

BinegarEmboroughShepton Mallet
Chewton MendipLittonSton Easton

Icon for pdf Map of eligible parishes and out of scope areas within Mendip District [5.03MB]

Why is my area not eligible for grant funding?

In the previous LEADER funding cycle, the majority of Mendip district was not covered by LAGs.  In 2014, Defra encouraged existing LAGs to create wider areas of coverage across England and also encouraged the formation of a number of new ones.  This has generally broadened the area of coverage across England, however due to former geographic boundaries of LAGs, (not based on existing Local Authority boundaries) this has led to some areas across the country being excluded due to European Commission rules on maximum population thresholds for LAGs.

In Mendip this has meant that the LAGs to the east and west of the district have increased their coverage significantly, but have been unable to include Shepton Mallet and a number of rural parishes to the north of the district.  The Levels and Moors LAG requested an exemption to increase its area of coverage beyond the maximum 150,000 population threshold in order to address this, but this was not approved and therefore, LEADER funding is not available in the parishes of Ashwick, Binegar, Chewton Mendip, Chilcompton, Croscombe, Emborough, Litton, Pilton, Priddy, Shepton Mallet and Ston Easton.

Are there any other sources of grants or finance I can explore?

For more information about access to finance and funding in Mendip, please visit Finance and Funding or Grant Finder