A new grant scheme has launched for the benefit of rural businesses and organisations based in the South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse areas.

The fund is designed to support capital projects for small businesses and community infrastructure that help to improve productivity and strengthen both the rural economy and rural communities.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have secured the funding through the government’s Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) as part of the Government’s levelling up agenda, also supporting its Future Farming Programme.

Grant funding is available for small scale investment in micro and small enterprises in rural areas, growing the local social economy and supporting innovation, investment in capacity building and infrastructure support for local civil society and community groups. Example projects include the diversification of farm buildings outside of agriculture, establishment of rural community businesses and net-zero infrastructure.

Robin Bennett, South Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said: “Whilst we are fortunate to be situated in an incredibly attractive area of natural beauty and character, the last few years have been challenging for our rural economy.

“This fund will provide a lifeline of crucial support to small rural businesses and organisations in South Oxfordshire – providing investment that can create jobs, support sustainable business development and innovation, and ultimately help our rural communities to prosper. I encourage eligible organisations and businesses to find out more and apply before the 24 November deadline.”

Neil Fawcett, Vale of White Horse District Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “Our rural businesses often face very specific challenges, and this grant scheme will help support them to grow and develop. In turn, this will have the knock-on effect of increasing productivity and prosperity across our rural communities.

“The fund is important in helping us deliver on our priorities – as well as improving community and economic wellbeing, those looking to reduce carbon emissions are prioritised, so this also contributes to our action on the climate emergency. I would urge any rural businesses and organisations in Vale of White Horse to have a look online and apply as soon as possible if they are eligible.”

Town and parish councils, public sector organisations, higher and further education institutions, private sector companies, registered charities, constituted community-based organisations, social enterprises (such as CICs) are eligible to apply to the scheme.

Interested parties are encouraged to submit an application before midday on Friday, November 24 by visiting the South Oxfordshire District Council or Vale of White Horse District council website.

A grant panel will then meet in February 2024 to discuss each project and assess which projects should receive funding.