Rural Business Grants Programme guidance and eligibility

Introduction

Rural Business Grants Programme eligibility guidance, version 1.9, updated 18 December 2023.

The following guidance is subject to change pending further information from Government.

The purpose of this guidance is to advise applicants on what businesses, projects and spend are eligible to receive grant funding in the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) Rural Business Grants Programme. This will be a dual grants programme that includes two grant offers:

  • Small Grants - grants from £2,500 up to £15,000
  • Large Grants - grants from £15,000 up to £50,000

Please note, this is a discretionary fund; full compliance with the eligibility criteria may not guarantee that an application will be successful and there is no right of appeal against the decision. An explanation will be provided for any declined applications.


Eligible businesses

To be eligible, businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria:

Small or Medium Sized Enterprise (SME)

  • fewer than 250 FTE (full time equivalent) employees;
  • a balance sheet of less than €43m;
  • a turnover of less than €50m.

Trading

If the business has zero FTE (full time equivalent) employees, or is in the first year of trading, proof of trading will be required and can include:

  • Companies House document;
  • Business Bank Statement;
  • Insurance for business;
  • UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) or tax correspondence from HMRC;
  • Business rates bill.

This programme will support new businesses, but only where they have already commenced trading. The maximum grants for businesses in their first year will be limited to the Small Grants (£2,500 to £15,000) stream of grant funding.

Location

Businesses applying to the scheme must be located in the Rother or Wealden District Council areas, and projects must benefit the site of the business that is located in the Rother or Wealden District Council areas.

In addition, the business must be based rurally, or in a hamlet, village, or market town with a population of less than 30,000.

Excluded areas are Bexhill, Polegate and Stone Cross (exclusions are decided by Government).

Sector

This programme is focused on supporting rural businesses in the Rother and Wealden delivery areas.

Education, health, care, retail, professional services, selected leisure activities and mining services are not eligible for funding through this programme. Other exclusions may apply.

Subsidy Control

The Rural Business Grants Programme provides subsidies to businesses under Minimum Financial Assistance (MFA). Under MFA, businesses cannot receive more than £315,000 in a three-year period.

Businesses may not receive a subsidy from the programme that causes them to exceed this limit.


Eligible projects

Businesses will need to apply for eligible projects that meet the following criteria:

Capital spend ONLY

Grants are to support businesses with capital projects only. In this case this means tangible items such as kit, machinery, equipment, work vehicles, and adaptations to premises.

This must be the full purchase of an item, and does not include stock, materials and individual components (e.g. within a refurbishment, or machinery and equipment repairs) and lease of equipment or items, staff costs etc.

This grants programme supports rural businesses and includes farm diversification and adaptation.

Supports growth and/or improvements

The grant needs to support growth or improvements in the business. This will be tested as part of the application, as listed below:

  • New jobs created
  • Safeguarded jobs
  • Adopting new to the firm technologies or processes
  • Improving productivity
  • Contributes towards business growth

Within eligible grant limits

Projects must be requesting a minimum grant of at least £2,500.

The maximum grant that the programme will award is £50,000 but this may be lower depending on the turnover and size of the business applying.

The minimum intervention rate for the programme is 25% of the project cost, meaning the maximum value of a projects would be £200,000.

Maximum of four items

Due to the administrative capacity of the programme, projects can only include a maximum of four items. Each item must cost more than £1,000 to be eligible for funding.

Applications will have to include three quotes for each item included. Where businesses do not choose the cheapest quote, an explanation of why another quote has been chosen will need to be provided.

Excluded items

The programme will award grants for work vehicles such as an electric van, but not for normal cars or vehicles that are associated with personal use. Any grants for work vehicles will need to provide good value for money and show a clear impact on the business. Farm equipment such as tractors and trailers will not be considered through this scheme.

Personal devices such as a phone, tablet and laptop are also excluded. Exceptions on personal devices may be made where a strong business case is made, and risk of personal use is small.

Other items may be excluded where risks are identified.

Displacement

The programme will not support displacement of jobs or businesses in Rother, Wealden or East Sussex. Grant applications may be rejected where this is identified as a risk.


Grant limits

Maximum grant value

The maximum grant that can be awarded as part of the programme is £50,000 at 50% of the cost of the project.

Minimum intervention rate

The programme is designed to fund 50% of the cost of projects, but the project will support projects up to £200,000 or at a minimum intervention rate of 25%.

Minimum grant value

The minimum grant that the programme will award is £2,500.

This means that the minimum cost of a project must be equal to or more than £5,000.


Important points

Businesses should be aware of the following important points when considering an application to the programme:

Pre-approved items only

Businesses can only purchase pre-approved items as per the chosen quote in their application. If a business purchases an alternative item or from an alternate source, their claim for grant funding may be rejected.

Funding cannot be retrospective

Businesses must be approved and have a sealed grant funding agreement signed by all parties before making the purchase.

Businesses that have already committed money towards a purchase or made a purchase before the date of the grant funding agreement may find their claims are rejected.

You must have the funds to complete your purchases

Businesses can only claim the grant funding once their purchase is complete, and they have taken delivery of the item(s). Therefore, businesses will need to have the funds upfront to make the purchase and the cashflow to wait for the grant funding claim to be processed and paid.

Eligible match funding sources include:

  • bank loan or overdraft facility;
  • the Grant Recipient's own funds;
  • the Grant Recipient's own funds, including owners/directors' loan to the business;
  • personal funds from the Company;
  • private investor / New Share Capital / New Equity investors.

Ineligible match funding sources include, but are not limited to, asset financing and leasing agreements.

You must have the relevant insurance(s) in place

Businesses will need to have the relevant insurance policy cover in place for the respective capital equipment purchased through grant funding, including Public Liability Insurance and Employer's Liability Insurance alongside any other policies that may apply.

Business bank account

Grant funding can only be paid into a business bank account, and therefore businesses must have a business account to be eligible to receive a grant.

Evidence requirements

Businesses will have to provide evidence throughout the programme. This will include, but may not be limited to:

  • three quotes for each item funded;
  • receipts or remittance for each item funded;
  • photographic evidence of purchase.

Financial checks

Businesses will need to provide financial information as part of the application process and may be subject to credit checks for verification purposes.

For new businesses, we may ask for a personal credit check where financial information on the businesses is not available.

VAT

VAT will be calculated differently for VAT and non-VAT registered businesses:

  • if VAT registered, the grant will be calculated as 50% of the total costs excluding VAT;
  • if not VAT registered, the grant will be calculated as 50% of the total including VAT.