RURAL BUSINESSES in England look set to receive a £35m investment boost in a bid to 'unlock growth' in rural areas.

This funding has been added to the UK Government's Growth Programme, under which rural start-ups and businesses can apply for grants of up to £750,000 to purchase equipment and machinery to grow their business or explore opportunities in tourism. In previous funding rounds, the scheme has granted £99m to 546 local businesses across England, creating 7771 new jobs in rural areas.

Farming Minister George Eustice urged farmers looking to diversify their businesses to consider applying: “This next round of funding will help more businesses to grow and local areas to prosper – and I would urge any rural enterprise to look into what this scheme could do for them.

“I would also encourage farmers to consider how they might use this funding to branch out and diversify their businesses, making the most of emerging trends and tastes and looking ahead to new opportunities.”

This round of funding application will see a threshold for minimum grants lower from £35,000 to £20,000, meaning that more small or micro-businesses can be eligible for a grant for their projects.

Rural Payments Agency chief executive, Paul Caldwell, said: “We are looking to support applications from businesses with ambitious plans to grow their business and provide wider benefits to their local community. I would urge all interested applicants to submit their expressions of interest as soon as possible to ensure they have plenty of time to complete a full application if their project is assessed to be eligible.”