Rural Business Grants Programme guidance and eligibility


Rother and Wealden Rural Business Grants Programme eligibility guidance. Version 2.1, updated March 2024.

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 Rother and Wealden Rural Business Grants Programme.

The programme includes two grant offers:

  • Small Grants from £2,500 to £15,000
  • Large Grants from £15,000 to £35,000

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.

Aims of the programme

The Rother and Wealden Rural Business Grants Programme has targets around supporting business growth and productivity improvements, and in particular creating jobs for local people.

For applicants to be successful, their projects should seek to support one or more of the following targets:

  • Jobs created
  • Jobs safeguarded
  • Number of businesses adopting new to the firm technologies or processes
  • Number of businesses with improved productivity
  • Number of businesses experiencing growth

For larger grants of £15,000 or more, projects should have a clear link to growth and job creation.

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.


If the business has zero FTE (full time equivalent) employees, the business will need to evidence that it is trading. Proof of trading may include:

  • Companies House document;
  • Business Bank Statement;
  • Insurance for business;
  • UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) or tax correspondence from HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs);
  • 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.


Businesses applying to the scheme must be based 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).


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 programme is funded by the UK Government as part of its Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF). REPF provides subsidies to businesses under Minimum Financial Assistance (MFA), under which 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.

Farms and farm diversification

One of the aims of the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) is to support farm diversification outside of agriculture, and this programme is designed to support farming businesses with a range of farm diversification projects. This may include but not be limited to:

  • The creation of a farm shop or cellar door.
  • The adaptation of farm buildings to other commercial uses.
  • Tourism and visitor accommodation and facilities.

Unfortunately REPF does not allow us to support farms with farming activity or anything linked to the farm part of their business.

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.

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

Supporting job creation may be important to the success of applicants seeking larger grants.

Planning permission and other documents

Projects that require planning permission must have an approved planning application for their project before entering the programme.

We may also require other documents to be provided before proceeding with an application, such as a lease agreement, confirmation of land ownership or any other legal document required to confirm a business and project's eligibility.

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 £35,000 but this may be lower depending on the turnover and size of the business applying.

With a minimum intervention rate of 25% (see Grant limits below) we should expect the maximum value of a project to be £140,000.

Maximum of four items

Due to the administrative capacity of the programme, the expectation is that projects can only include a maximum of four items. Each item must cost a minimum of £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 and computing devices such as a phone, tablet, laptop, computer and computer equipment are also excluded.

Other items may be excluded where risks are identified.

Accommodation and holiday lets

The programme will support visitor accommodation, including holiday lets, glamping, shepherds huts and other tourism focused accommodation.

We cannot support any accommodation that may be used for residential purposes, including as accommodation for staff or seasonal workers.

All accommodation projects must have the required planning permission and, if required, the correct Use Class consent to apply.


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 £35,000 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 £140,000 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 value of a project must be equal to or more than £5,000.

£15,000 maximum for non-job creation projects

Projects that do not clearly lead to PAYE job creation (1 FTE) will only be able to apply for grants of up to £15,000.

As per the above, the grant must remain at least 25% of the project cost, meaning that these grants can only support projects up to a maximum of £60,000.

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 signed grant funding agreement 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 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.

Rother and Wealden delivery area

The Rother and Wealden delivery area is shown in the white highlighted areas of the map below. Please note that Bexhill, Polegate and Stone Cross areas are excluded. These boundaries have been decided by central Government.

For exact boundary details, please see DEFRA’s mapping website (click on administrative geographies / other administrative boundaries / Rural England Prosperity Fund).

map of the Rural Business Grants Programme delivery area