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Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF)

29th August 2023

An unveiling has taken place for a fresh initiative called the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF), with a substantial budget of £110 million. The primary aim of this fund is to bolster the rural economy and generate employment opportunities through supporting various projects.

Serving as a rural extension to the existing £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), the REPF has been allocated this substantial funding to ensure that endeavours aimed at enhancing productivity and prosperity in the most deserving regions of the country are also extended to encompass rural areas.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has detailed that this fund will channel investments to invigorate rural enterprises and modernize communal amenities.

This initiative bears resemblance to the grants provided by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), under the umbrella of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF), such as the LEADER and Growth Programme grants.

Among the potential beneficiaries are farms seeking diversification opportunities, as grants are likely to be offered to facilitate the transformation of farm structures for alternate purposes, including accommodations for visitors or spaces for events.

The fund’s scope is also expected to encompass the following:

  • Provision of capital grants to establish high-speed digital infrastructure in hubs like village halls, pubs, and post offices, meant for communal usage.
  • Capital grants designated for the enhancement, restoration, or renovation of local assets, sites, and cultural heritage.
  • Development of new pedestrian and cycling pathways, particularly in regions with health-related requirements, or provision of capital grants to enable locals to initiate community-based volunteering and social projects.

Defra has expressed optimism that this new rural fund will play a pivotal role in addressing the rural productivity gap and fostering equal opportunities within rural areas.

A recent governmental publication titled “Delivering for Rural England” has highlighted that while progress has been made in domains such as digital connectivity and combating rural crime, rural areas have fallen behind the national average in terms of productivity.

Operational from April 2023 to March 2025, the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) will be administered by local authorities, with the intention of ensuring the effective delivery of its objectives.