Funds available for rural communities

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Rural communities across Deeside and Donside could receive a boost after the Rural Aberdeenshire LEADER programme announced a call for new applications.

The funding programme, financed by the European Community and Scottish Government, closed to new applications in September 2011 after the Local Action Group (LAG) awarded all remaining funds to community projects.

Rural Aberdeenshire LAG committed almost £4m of awards to projects over 13 application rounds, between 2008 and 2011.

Funding is awarded to projects which can demonstrate broad community benefit and aid the delivery of the overarching themes of ‘revitalising communities’ and ‘progressive rural economy’. The LAG will consider a grant rate of up to 50% of total eligible costs.

Due to savings from some current projects and an additional allowance from the Scottish Government, funds are now available for new projects through Aberdeenshire LEADER.

The LAG is now encouraging applications from groups across the area, with a first submission deadline for new applications of April 30. However, it is likely the available budget, in the region of £600,000, will also enable two further application rounds later in the year.

Potential applicants should be aware that projects should be at an advanced stage of development and should be able to spend all funding awarded by March 2014.

Potential applicants should contact LEADER project officer Jamie Wilkinson for advice prior to applying on (01467) 628262.

Aberdeenshire Council’s head of economic development and LAG chairwoman, Belinda Miller, said: “I am delighted to announce that Aberdeenshire LEADER will be accepting new applications.

“We expect there will be three assessment rounds in 2012, which will be a welcome boost for local groups developing projects. In the four years since the programme was launched, 114 projects have been awarded LEADER funding. LEADER has delivered tangible benefit to rural Aberdeenshire.”

The council’s LEADER co-ordinator, Vicky Thomson, said: “We expect strong interest from community groups and other eligible bodies over the coming months.

“Priority will be given to robust applications for projects.”