Devon and Somerset have received a £2.9m investment that is expected to create more than 700 jobs across the area.
The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has confirmed that funds from the Rural Growth Network (RGN) initiative have been approved by Defra and has announced how the funds will be distributed throughout the two counties.
The £2.9m investment is expected to boost the rural economy by £40m by providing the opportunities and infrastructure that rural businesses need to grow.
Devon will see an investment of £1m, supporting projects that expect to create 686 new jobs, boosting the economy by an anticipated £39m. The RGN money will act as a catalyst, opening up additional funding for a number of existing large scale projects, allowing them to proceed.
These projects include:
- Opportunity Okehampton – £150,000 will go towards developing the site located next to Okehampton Business Centre, for business expansion and growth.
- Holsworthy Agricultural Business Centre – £400,000 will go towards opening up the surrounding land of the site for development, and adding infrastructure to the site.
- Bicton College (EaRTH Centre) – £300,000 will be invested into developing a flexible workspace for new and expanding businesses at the Bicton College site.
- Dartington – £150,000 will be invested into the first phase of the redevelopment of Webber’s Yard into a modern rural business park, as part of a wider master plan for the site.
Somerset will also see an investment of around £1m to continue the creation of a network of enterprise centres, supporting small businesses across the county.
In addition to the existing centres at Frome, Minehead, Dulverton and Wheddon Cross, a brand new enterprise centre will be created at the Isleport Business Park in Highbridge, offering business accommodation and facilities. Flexible work hubs will also be created in other parts of Somerset.
The remaining funds will be used on revenue projects throughout the two counties – these details are currently being finalised and will be announced shortly.
The £2.9m fund was approved by the government in March earlier this year; since then, LEPs across the country have been working closely with Defra to confirm projects and prepare contracts.
HotSW is one of just five LEPs selected to deliver a pilot Rural Growth Network, spearheading a national drive to encourage economic growth and enterprise in rural areas.
Tim Jones, Chair of HotSW said: “This funding is a vital lifeline for our rural communities and economy. It represents a major commitment to achieve growth throughout Devon & Somerset and is designed to reach the most remote rural communities.
“It is vital that we enhance the enormous potential of our many rural enterprises and encourage the growth of new rural businesses.
“Improving our business productivity, supporting business growth, protecting existing employment and creating new jobs will all be assisted through this programme.
“We are determined to ensure that the interests of the rural economy are fully supported through our initiatives.”
LEP Board Member and Devon County Councillor Will Mumford said: “This is a fantastic investment for rural Devon and Somerset – the money will help businesses overcome barriers and create new job opportunities.
“Rural areas are vital to the economy of both Devon and Somerset and it’s important that we invest funding effectively to ensure economic growth.”
£2.9m fund was awarded to the Local Enterprise Partnership working in conjunction with Devon and Somerset County Councils. The Rural Growth Network initiative will run until 2015.