Some readers will already know about LEADER*, if only because we touched on it briefly in the last issue of Rural Outlook. LEADER is a pot of European money totalling £138m that is available for rural projects in England. The scheme runs from 2015 to 2020 with funding available throughout this timeframe. It is open to local businesses, communities, farmers, foresters and land managers who must apply for it through Local Action Groups (LAGs). Grants range from £2,500 up to £50,000 and all money is 40% match-funded.

LEADER funding is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) with funding designed to support one or more of six national priorities, which are to:

  • Support micro and small businesses or farm diversification
  • Boost rural tourism
  • Increase farm productivity
  • Increase forestry productivity
  • Provide rural services
  • Provide cultural and heritage activities

The LEADER grant is an extremely competitive scheme with significant importance based on job creation and benefit to the rural economy. To be successful any outline application must clearly show growth in employment and economic performance within the business to justify grant funding. Only those applications that provide the greatest benefits to the rural economy will be successful so you need to think very carefully about how to make your application stand out from the competition. In addition to these key parameters, each LAG then has its own specific priorities. These too must be addressed within the outline application to stand a chance of being invited to submit a full application.

Secure Planning Permission before you apply

From experience, it is vital to have cemented your scheme prior to applying for grant funding. Timings are tight for completing full applications. You will only have four months from acceptance of your outline application to submit the full application. Thus if your scheme will require planning consent or other external information for your project to be approved we recommend you have this organised prior to making an outline application.

It is also important to carefully think about what elements you apply for under the grant funding scheme. In some cases you are more likely to be successful in receiving funding if you identify a particular area that you wish LEADER to support. For example, in the case of a farm shop it is sometimes easier to apply for funding for specific items of kit, such as fridge units and display cabinets, rather than applying for the whole scheme.

Simplify what you are applying for

Bearing in mind the size of grant funding, there is little point including all of a larger scheme in the application when 40% funding of a specific element would account for the maximum grant you might be awarded anyway. Excluding building elements might also have the advantage of simplifying the actual project plan, allowing you to manage the contract on a more commercial basis, rather than being forced to follow the LEADER-required competitive tender process and selection criteria.

As mentioned, applying for funding is a two-stage process with the outline application merely the first hurdle to prove eligibility and suitability under the scheme. Once your outline application has been successful then the real fun starts in supporting your application and ensuring that it scores as highly as possible within the Rural Payment Agency’s scoring matrix.

The competitive nature of the scheme means the application process is not as straightforward as it may initially seem. We have been heavily involved in the various incarnations of LEADER funding over the last fifteen years. Indeed, many Batcheller Monkhouse employees now sit on Local Action Group (LAG) boards, deciphering and processing applications that come in which gives us a thorough understanding of what is required.

If you’d like to apply for funding, the latest date applications can be submitted is in 2019. If you’d like to discuss whether your project might be eligible, call Charlotte Pearson-Wood on 01892 509285 or email

Example project that obtained LEADER grant funding