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SELEP’s rural economy is a rich mosaic of traditional and innovative land-based businesses, including farming, horticulture, viticulture, forestry and rural tourism. These sit alongside a broad range of non-rural businesses. In March 2014, SE LEP published its Rural Strategy focussing on the local economy, communities and the environment, and aiming to support the area’s estimated rural population of 936,000 – nearly a quarter of the 3.9m residents in the whole area.

SELEP Rural Strategy

The SELEP vision for its rural areas is one of a growing rural economy with a highly skilled workforce in full employment. Creating opportunities for the establishment of new businesses, the development of existing ones, increased job opportunities and a thriving culture of entrepreneurship support this vision.

Good access to services, improving skill levels, the availability of affordable housing and reduced journey times to work are essential elements of the vision and to ensuring a good quality of life in rural communities.

The effective stewardship of the countryside and the natural environment are
crucial to the long-term health and wellbeing of the economy and our communities.

The strategy identifies activities and outcomes which may be instrumental
in achieving strategic aims, but does not attempt to prescribe an exhaustive list of suitable actions.

£14.5m of new EU funding

The launch of the SELEP Rural Strategy followed hot on the heels of £14.5m of new EU funding announced by SELEP and DEFRA, to support rural business in the area. As part of the EU’s European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development scheme, micro and small businesses will now be able to apply for awards of a minimum £50,000 to help support projects to deliver the aims of the SELEP Rural Strategy.

SELEP is one of just five LEPs in the country to have launched this fund.

Other smaller grants will be available to rural business and rural communities through the EU LEADER programme spearheaded by nine rural community groups and endorsed by DEFRA and SELEP.

Amongst a range of activity support of the Rural Strategy, SELEP also continues its help to establish a network of Food Enterprise Zones in the South East.

Our Rural Strategy was approved by the SELEP Strategic Board on 20th March, 2015 and details our vision for rural growth, balancing support of the rural economy, local communities and the environment.