The Final Report of the Heart of the South West Rural Growth Network (RGN) Pilot has been published, showing a resounding success for its projects that support the rural economy.
The RGN Initiative was set up in 2012 with a national allocation of £12.5m from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and £1.6m from Government Equalities Office (GEO) in response to barriers to rural economic growth.
The Heart of the South West successfully bid to run one of five pilot projects across the UK, designed to tackle the barriers to economic growth in the countryside, such as a shortage of work premises, slow internet connectivity, fragmented business networks, competitiveness, lack of properly skilled people, and support for micro-enterprise.
The results speak for themselves:
Over 400 firms were engaged in successful planning; over 100 new businesses were created, over 350 new jobs were created, and a business support survey indicates a potential £56m turnoer increase [can we cite the survey?]
In total, over 4,000 businesses made contact with the Rural Growth Pilot and 2,000 recived extended support as a result.
Business centres were created at: Bicton, Dartington, Holsworthy, Highbridge, Minehead, Dulverton, and 2 work hubs in Somerset and 21.5 acres of business land was developed for sale Okehampton – that’s around 14 football pitches!
10 enterprise and employability projects were awarded funding, totalling £113,000 under the Enterprise in Schools grant, enabling more than 1,500 pupils to achieve the skills they need to become employable in the real world of work.
The project exceeded some of its targets too – there were 890 Women Led Enteprises that benefitted against an original target of 450.
HotSW LEP achieved the best value in the country for the return on the amount of funding; for each pound of DEFRA investment, we achieved £5.22 in match funding, compared to a national average of £2.21 for other RGNs. The total investment in the HotSW RGN programme was over £24million.
In terms of support for businesses, over 400 received a digital review, there were 250 recipients of business support vouchers and over 1,500 rural businesses were helped with a Growth Action Plan. Of these businesses supported a 97% customer satisfaction rate is reported.
Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said: “I am delighted that we achieved the best results in the country in terms of value for money in our Rural Growth Pilot, it’s testament to the efficiency and expertise of our partnership which delivered this project with such success.
The rural economy is crucial to the growth and sustainability of the Heart of the South West and indeed the UK. We have a roughly 50:50 split in business population between the rural and urban environment, and Rural Productivity is a key theme in our Devolution Prospectus, so the achievements of the Rural Growth Pilot are something to celebrate.”
The final national evaluation report will be published by DEFRA website in the Autumn.
Media Enquiries: Helena Davison, Heart of the South West LEP Communications Manager, 07525 806 333 email: firstname.lastname@example.org