THE Government’s decision to allocate £35m in grants for small rural businesses has been welcomed in the North-East.

Last Friday, the announcement that Westminster would be reopening the Rural Growth Programme to create jobs and growth in the rural economy was music to the ears of small companies in rural areas.

Opening this week, the deadline for businesses to express an interest will run until Sunday, February 16.

Businesses that express interest must have a working project idea as well as information on how they meet the criteria for the scheme, including creating new jobs, increasing business turnover and improving productivity.

The threshold for the Rural Growth Programme has been lowered from a minimum of £35,000 to £20,000 to allow smaller and micro-business projects to benefit from the opportunity.

Charles Raine, a director at North-East chartered surveyors youngsRPS, which has a base in Hexham, was delighted with the announcement.

He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for small rural businesses to achieve their ambitious growth plans.

“Items such as machinery and equipment are expensive and are often a necessity to drive business further forward.

“This grant has been reopened in order to help those businesses invest, not only unlocking their full potential, but adding value to the local economy through recruitment and tourism. This funding is, of course, available for farming businesses but also for other rural businesses such as, but not limited to, cafes, tourist attractions and hotels.

“We urge businesses to consider expressing interest as soon as possible to allow for a comprehensive full application to be completed if their project is deemed as eligible.”

The grants come at an uncertain future of funding in agriculture, so youngsRPS is recommending businesses to take opportunities like this when they are available.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the Rural Growth Programme can contact the Hexham office of youngsRPS on (01434) 609000.