The trick is to plan ahead. Take stock now. Whilst the future of government support for the rural sector is still very uncertain we know enough to make some informed ‘guesses’ as to where it is headed. Support for woodland planting, natural capital, farming productivity, energy efficiency improvements, rural tourism projects and carbon capture are all going to be there in some form… (I think we can say that with some certainty?!).
So why not start thinking now about the traditional buildings worthy of restoration and secure planning consent for the barn you might want to convert. Apply for the Woodland Creation Planning Grant and get an approved planting scheme. Identify the central heating boilers in your cottages that are old and inefficient. You don’t have to start these projects but at least you are in the starting blocks ready for any funding opportunity that comes along. Anticipate the starting gun.
All too often the decision to go for a grant is last minute and rushed. If you’re at the back of the queue you are not giving your asset its best chance. Think it through in advance, secure the necessary consent and make sure it is deliverable. When margins are tight (which they might be after Brexit) you don’t want to miss out when the planning consent hasn’t come through in time.
Sticking my neck on the line, I think it is fair to say the following grants will stick around in one form or another. This list is not intended to be deﬁnitive, nor are they all available at the time of going to print, but I hope to give you a ﬂavour of what might be out there if you know where to look:
• Historic Building Restoration - Grant– 80%(!) grant funding for farm buildings in National Parks
• Hedgerow and Boundary- Grants – Providing up to £10k of capital grants for dry stone wall repairs and hedgerow gapping up
• Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship- A whole raft of capital and area based payments
• Higher-Tier Countryside Stewardship - A whole raft of capital and area based payments
• Woodland Management Plan Grant – Often 100% of cost of developing an approved management plan for existing woodland
• Woodland Creation Planning Grant – Up to £30k per project (depending on size) to assist with getting a new woodland planting scheme approved
• Woodland Carbon Fund – Up to £6,800 per hectare for woodland planting (large sites)
• Woodland Creation Grant - Up to £6,800 per hectare for woodland planting (small sites)
• RDPE Growth Programme – 40% grant towards rural tourism projects
• RDPE Growth Programme - 40% grant towards food processing
• RDPE Growth Programme – 40% grant towards farm diversiﬁcation or new equipment
• Green Homes Grant – Up to £10k grant towards energy efficiency improvements for residential properties
• A whole raft of Covid-19 related support.
• Gigabit Voucher Scheme - £1,500 and £3,500 grant to connect fast internet to rural homes and businesses respectively.
• RDPE Countryside Productivity Scheme – 40% grants for machinery and equipment for farmers and foresters
Farms and rural estates are full of opportunities to be more efficient and to diversify income streams. If your business isn’t taking full advantage of the grants to do so, don’t complain to me when the Basic Payment is gone.