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Rural England Prosperity Fund guidance

The guidance on this page is not exhaustive, and we reserve the right to amend the guidance at our own discretion and we will be the final arbiter of the definitions contained below. 

We also publish information on .

On this page:

About the Rural Fund

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government's Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-prospectus 

The Rural England Prosperity Fund is funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. It is centrally managed by Defra (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) and is also referred to as the 'Rural Fund' in this guidance.  

Eligible local authorities qualify for a Rural Fund allocation from government based on factors developed in line with the scheme objectives. This includes the size of their rural populations. Not all authorities with rural areas are eligible for the fund. There is detail about this rural definition further down this page. 

The Rural England Prosperity Fund ends in March 2025; however, grant funded projects must be completed by 31 December 2024 at the latest.  

Our role

We administer the New Forest Rural Fund allocation in line with government guidance as well as national and local priorities for the funds. 

We are responsible for deciding how to award grants including approving applications, contracting with successful applicants, making payments and undertaking day-to-day monitoring of projects. 

The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses 

There are two distinct strands to the Rural Fund: 

  1. A grant scheme for eligible rural businesses called 'The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses'. This offers grants of £5,000 - £40,000 and applicants must contribute a minimum of 50% of the eligible project costs from their own (cash) resources. 
  2. A grant scheme for certain types of new and improved community infrastructure called ''. 

The guidance on this webpage relates to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses only. 

Areas of the New Forest included in the Rural Fund scheme 

Not all businesses in the area administered by New Forest District Council are eligible to apply for a grant from the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses. 

This is because not all areas of New Forest District qualify as 'rural' as defined by Defra using an official statistical definition of rural areas based on the 2011 Census.

You can find out more on Defra's methodology for determining rural areas at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rural-england-prosperity-fund-prospectus/rural-england-prosperity-fund-prospectus 

In summary, for Rural Fund purposes, rural areas are defined as: 

  • towns, villages and hamlets with populations below 10,000 and the wider countryside 
  • market or 'hub towns' with populations of up to 30,000 that serve their surrounding rural areas as centres of employment and in providing services 

Applicants to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses must be based within the New Forest Rural Fund area and can demonstrate that the grant funded investment will benefit the wider economy of the New Forest Rural Fund area for example through jobs and growth. 

You can check whether the address of your business is within the Rural Fund area..

Businesses based outside the Rural Fund area

Unfortunately, there is currently no equivalent funding for businesses based in New Forest district but outside of Defra's pre-determined New Forest Rural Fund area. We do not have our own business grant scheme.  

There may be funding available through government or other sources; you can find more information at Grants and loans for existing businesses - New Forest District Council 

In addition, we will publicise new grant schemes through our dedicated Business Support enews, you can sign up to receive it at Sign up to the Business Support eNewsletter - New Forest District Council 

If your business is based outside of New Forest District, you may wish to contact the Local Authority responsible for your area.

You can check this at www.gov.uk/find-local-council.   However, not all authorities with rural areas are eligible for the fund or have the same grant criteria as in the New Forest. 

Key dates for The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses

The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is subject to limited funding and the 'grant application window' will close on 01 August 2024 or when the allocated budget has been awarded in full, whichever is sooner. 

Who can apply to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses

Access to grants from the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is by a competitive application process. 

Businesses will not be awarded a grant from the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses if they are unable to meet the applicant and project criteria or if they cannot provide us with sufficient information to demonstrate how they meet the criteria. 

To apply for a grant from the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses: 

  • The business must be based within the New Forest Rural Fund area and can demonstrate that the grant funded investment will benefit the wider economy of the New Forest Rural Fund area, for example through growth of the applicant business and/or creation of new jobs. 

You can check whether the postcode of your business is within the Rural Fund area..

  • The business must not be in financial difficulty. 
  • The business must be continuing to trade with a view to making a profit or surplus (not a dormant company).  
  • The business must be a private sector company.

This can include sole traders, partnerships and limited companies; or  

A Not-for-profit organisation where the project leads to clear economic benefit and growth for the applicant organisation and/or for the local economy; or 

A farm business where the project is to diversify outside of agriculture (i.e., not farm production) excluding food processing. This is because other Defra schemes support these activities. 

  • The business must have less than 250 employees and an annual turnover under €50 million.
  • The business must not have access to or receive alternative funding from public sources for the same project.  

The business must comply with any permits, licences, permissions, consents, approvals, certificates and authorisations (whether statutory or otherwise) which are required for the performance of the business and project.  

If your project is dependent on Planning Permission and/or the granting of a licence and this is not yet in place, you should contact us before you start the Rural Grant application process to discuss timescales. 

The business must be in a position to commence their project, i.e. place a confirmed order for the items/commission works, within 6 weeks of receipt of the Grant Offer Letter. This means you must have your cash match funding contribution (i.e. 50% of project costs) in place when you apply for the grant and be able to fund the project costs in their entirety before grant monies are paid. 

If you have any concerns about your project timescales or match funding, you should contact us before you start the grant application process. 

The business and/or applicant must not be in NFDC Council Tax or business rates arrears. 

Businesses for whom receipt of the requested Rural Fund Grant from the Council will not exceed the Minimum Financial Assistance' (MFA) threshold for the enterprise as specified in section 36(1) of the Subsidy Control Act (2022). 

The Rural Fund scheme is covered by the UK Government Subsidy Control Act (2022). This means there is a limit on the amount of public subsidy that a business (enterprise) has already received if it is to also be eligible for a Rural Fund grant.  

The total amount of 'Minimum Financial Assistance' (MFA) received over a rolling period of three fiscal years should not exceed £315,000 per enterprise* (including the grant you are applying for).  

* The MFA financial threshold applies at company group level 

You can find more information at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-subsidy-control-7 

Who cannot apply to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses

Businesses that cannot apply to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses:

  • businesses based outside the New Forest Rural Fund area and/or that cannot demonstrate that the grant funded investment will benefit the wider economy of the New Forest Rural Fund area for example through jobs and growth
  • businesses in financial difficulty
  • businesses that have ceased trading or have closed without being required to do so as part of Government and local restrictions; is dissolved or about to be dissolved; is insolvent or if insolvency action had been instigated against it (including any petition or where a striking off notice has been made); is dormant, such as not trading but not insolvent
  • farming businesses where the project is for on-farm food processing or farm production (e.g. farm production machinery) as these activities are covered by other Defra schemes: The Farming Investment Fund: www.gov.uk/guidance/farming-investment-fund The Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/funding-for-farmers-in-protected-landscapes
  • businesses with more than 250 employees and an annual turnover over €50 million
  • businesses that have already received funding from public sources for this specific project
  • businesses that do not have the necessary permissions or licences for the performance of the businesses and/or are subject to enforcement action by the Police or a Regulatory Authority
  • businesses that cannot commence their projects within 6 weeks of receipt of the Grant Offer Letter 
  • businesses that do not have their cash match funding contribution in place when they apply for the grant (such as 50% of project costs)  
  • businesses that are unable to fund the purchase in its entirety before grant monies are paid
  • applicants and businesses in NFDC Council Tax or business rates arrears
  • applicants for whom receipt of the requested Rural Fund Grant from the Council will exceed the Minimum Financial Assistance' (MFA) threshold for the enterprise as specified in section 36(1) of the Subsidy Control Act (2022)
  • the total amount of 'Minimum Financial Assistance' (MFA) received over a rolling period of three fiscal years should not exceed £315,000 per enterprise* (including the grant you are applying for)

* The MFA financial threshold applies at company group level 

You can find more information at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-subsidy-control-7 

Types of projects the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses support

In all cases we can only consider projects for a Rural Fund grant where all of the following criteria has been met as well as all the criteria for an eligible business.  

Businesses will not be awarded a grant from the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses if they are unable to meet the applicant and project criteria or if they cannot provide the Council with sufficient information to demonstrate how they meet the criteria.

The type of projects the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses can support are as follows: 

Eligible projects within the New Forest Rural Fund area where it can be demonstrated that the grant funded investment will benefit the wider economy of the New Forest Rural Fund area for example through jobs and growth. 

Grant funded projects due to be completed before 01 December 2024; we would normally expect businesses to be in a position to commence their projects i.e. purchase the items/commission works within 6 weeks of receipt of the Grant Offer Letter.  

Projects requiring between £5,000 and £40,000 of Rural Fund grant support. 

Projects where the cost of individual items is £100 or more.  

  • Projects requiring investment in capital items only. In summary this means equipment, machinery or buildings. 

This can include second-hand equipment if purchased from a trusted dealer who will provide a reasonable warranty or guarantee and who can demonstrate proof of ownership (such as sale documents, warranty documents or logbook etc.). In addition, the second-hand equipment must not cost more than the market value for the new equipment. 

  • Projects that can demonstrate they will lead to the growth of the applicant business e.g. through increased productivity and/or efficiency savings. 
  • Projects that have growth plans but have not yet invested in the equipment/works. 

Projects for small scale investment in small and medium sized businesses based in the Rural Fund area for example: 

  • productivity enhancing processing equipment; 
  • product innovation equipment and buildings;  
  • adoption of energy efficient and low carbon technologies and techniques; This could include investment in measures to improve energy efficiency and cut emissions in commercial buildings (for example: LED lighting, insulation, energy efficient heating systems etc)  
  • projects to diversify eligible farm businesses outside of agriculture to encourage start up, expansion or scale up of these businesses. This excludes food processing equipment as another Defra scheme provides funding for this investment: see www.gov.uk/guidance/farming-investment-fund    

Projects must be able to demonstrate they will lead to the growth of the applicant business 

The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses cannot support: 

  • Projects situated outside the New Forest Rural Fund area 
  • Projects that cannot demonstrate that the grant funded investment will benefit the wider economy of the New Forest Rural Fund area for example through jobs and growth. 
  • Grant funded projects due to be completed after 01 December 2024.  
  • Projects requiring less than £5,000 and more than £40,000 of Rural Fund grant support. 
  • Projects where the cost of individual items is £100 or less.  
  • Projects requiring support for revenue costs, for example running costs, staff costs, promotional activity and stock. 
  • Any capital works done (or materials ordered) before the Rural Fund grant agreement starts 
  • Planning application fees or other transactional fees 
  • Projects or costs where there is a statutory duty to provide them. 
  • Agent fees or other advisory fees 
  • Meeting legal requirements, including planning conditions and tenancy agreements 
  • Any works undertaken as part of another grant or obligation 
  • Projects requiring support for like for like replacement of existing equipment or machinery. 
  • Projects and investments that have no direct economic benefit; the project must lead to the growth and improved productivity of the business.  
  • Projects where investment has already commenced or been completed before the application has been made and assistance awarded. Any costs already incurred are not eligible for Rural Fund grants. 
  • Projects that will improve domestic premises 
  • Non-specialised vehicles, such as cars, SUV, 4x4 and motorbikes 
  • Investment in farm production equipment e.g. tractors, livestock handling systems and on-farm food processing (see alternative schemes listed below)  
  • Food processing equipment for farmers as another Defra scheme provides funding for this investment: see www.gov.uk/guidance/farming-investment-fund 

Projects that have received funding from other Defra schemes this includes:  

How much grant money is available

The minimum grant you can apply for is £5,000. The maximum grant you can apply for is £40,000.   

The minimum cost of individual items eligible for the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is £100. Items below this value are not eligible for Rural Fund grant support. 

The maximum grant rate is 50% of the eligible project costs. Applicants will need to contribute a minimum of 50% of the eligible project costs from their own (cash) resources. 

Funding illustration table: 

Example Project Cost 

Grant Award 

Applicant Cash 'Match Funding' Contribution (minimum of 50% of eligible project costs) 

Below £10,000 

Not eligible (as minimum grant award is £5,000) 

N/A 

£10,000 

£5,000 

£5,000 

£20,000 

£10,000 

£10,000 

£40,000 

£20,000 

£20,000 

£80,000 

£40,000 

£40,000 

£90,000 

£40,000 (as this is the maximum grant award) 

£50,000 

 

Other information you need to know about this grant process

When you submit your grant application, you will need to provide detailed quotations for the proposed expenditure.  

The number of quotations required will be determined by the value of the quotation as shown in the table below.

Quotations must be dated within 8 weeks prior to submission of the application and be on the suppliers headed paper or from the suppliers' email.  

Value of quote  

 Supporting evidence that you must provide with your application  

Up to £2,499  

1 quote or catalogue listing  

£2,500 - £25,000  

3 written quotations or evidence of current market price from relevant suppliers of such goods, works and/or services  

Over £25,000  

Formal tender process  

 

Important information: 

  • Second hand equipment is eligible for grant support, but it has to be sourced from a trusted dealer who will provide a reasonable warranty or guarantee and who can demonstrate proof of ownership (such as sale documents, warranty documents or logbook etc.). In addition, the second-hand equipment must not cost more than the market value for the new equipment. 
  • Grant monies are paid retrospectively i.e. once you have approval from us to go ahead with the project you then pay for the items in full and once they are on site and in your ownership, you can submit a grant claim form to us with supporting information and we will process your grant payment. 
  • Project items purchased with cash are not eligible for grant funding. All project expenditure must be made by bank transfer, cheque or another auditable method.  
  • If a business is registered for VAT, they cannot claim the VAT element of any expenditure. If a business is not VAT registered, they are entitled to claim against the gross cost. We may ask for evidence to support your VAT status. 
  • Your specific project completion dates will be detailed in our Grant Offer Letter; however, all project expenditure must be completed by 01 December 2024 at the latest. 
  • Approval must be granted before expenditure is incurred; grants will not be paid for any expenditure incurred before the date of your Grant Offer letter. 
  • The Council may use discretion to award a different grant amount to that requested depending on the number of grants received and where it considers appropriate to enable the fund to support more businesses. 

Contributing to project costs

The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses can offer up to 50% of the project cost up to a maximum grant amount of £40,000. The applicant must therefore be able to contribute a minimum of 50% of the project costs from their own resources.  

The applicant will need to contribute more than 50% if the project costs are above our maximum grant amount; see the funding illustration above.  

Consents, permissions and licences 

Applicants must check each capital item you are applying for to see if any consents are needed. 

Applicants are responsible for arranging all relevant consents, permissions, exemptions and written advice needed for their application. You will not be paid for any work undertaken without all the necessary consents and permissions being in place before you begin any work. 

In some cases, you will not be offered a Grant Funding agreement if these are not in place. 

Information you need for your application 

Access to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is via an application form and the process is a competitive one.  

With your application form, you must provide the following supporting information: 

  1. A copy of the most recent statement from the bank account you use for your business. The statement must be dated within 2 months of the application date and show the bank account name and business address.  
  2. A copy of the most recent full statutory audited / unaudited accounts for the business OR if self-employed: a copy of your most recent HMRC self-assessment return.  
  3. A 12 Month cash flow forecast to show the impact of the project- there is a template for you to use at the end of this page along with the application form. 
  4. Valid, detailed quotes or catalogue listings for the proposed expenditure. The number of quotations required will be determined by the value of the quotation - see 'What do I need to know about this grant' above. 
  5. Evidence to confirm that the business is based within the New Forest Rural Fund area. This could be a Business Rates bill, NFDC licence, commercial property rental invoice, lease agreement or alternative evidence as required by the Council. 
  6. Written confirmation from your landlord of permission to undertake the project (if relevant) 

Applications will not be processed without this information. 

Important Information: 

  • Information provided on behalf of the business must be true and correct to the best of the applicant's knowledge and belief, and should it be subsequently determined that the grant was awarded on the basis of wrong or misleading information, or paid in error, the grant will be subject to recovery in full. 

How we assess applications

We assess applications based on the assessment criteria agreed with Government. This will include eligibility checks on the applicant and the proposed expenditure to ensure they meet scheme rules. 

We will then assess project proposals against the following criteria: 

  • how the project will help the business to grow and improve productivity  
  • the project's strategic fit with the objectives of the Rural Fund including how the project will benefit the wider rural economy of the district 
  • the value for money offered by the proposal  
  • the need and demand for the growth of the business and its products or services 
  • the financial viability of the business and the project - we will check applicants against the insolvency register and other information.  
  • project delivery and sustainability   

What happens after you apply

An application to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is considered to have been made when a completed application form is received by the Council, and you have received an acknowledgement of your application. 

Applications will be initially checked for eligibility before being considered by the Council against the assessment criteria. 

Important information:  

  • Duplicate applications will be rejected. 
  • The Council will only accept fully completed applications with the required supporting evidence. 
  • If the application is not accompanied by the required supporting evidence, or we require clarification on the content of your application, you will be contacted, once only, using the contact details you have supplied, to provide the required information. It is the applicant's responsibility to check their own email accounts for this correspondence, including Junk folders.  

If we do not receive your response within 10 working days, your application will automatically be rejected, and no further contact will be made by us. 

  • The Council reserves the right to request any supplementary information from businesses to support or clarify their application. 
  • Council tax and business rates checks will be undertaken on the applicant's home and business address where applicable.   
  • Applicants should note that, where a grant is paid by the Council, details of each individual grant may be passed to Government. 

How long it takes to get a decision on your application 

Once we receive your fully completed Full Application form along with all the required supporting information, and any queries have been resolved, we aim to process your application within 30 working days. However, this will depend on the volume of applications received.  

Please do not contact us to enquire about the progress of your application, you will be notified of the outcome once all the checks and assessments have been undertaken.  

We will prioritise consideration of grant applications when received and will not respond to canvassing. 

How we will tell you the outcome to your application

We will let you know the outcome of your application by email to the contact details you have provided.  

If it is a successful outcome to your application, we will send you a grant offer letter which details the agreed project and your ongoing obligations under the terms and conditions of the grant. 

  • you must receive and sign a grant offer letter before you commit to project expenditure as any expenditure that pre-dates the formal grant award offer letter will be deemed as ineligible expenditure for grant assistance. 
  • if you want to accept the grant offer letter you must sign and return the declaration within 20 working days. If you do not accept your offer in time, it will be withdrawn. 
  • you can withdraw an application at any point after submission, prior to a grant offer being made. Once a grant offer has been made, you cannot withdraw your application, but you can reject your agreement offer. 

If it is an unsuccessful outcome to your application, we will explain the reasons for this.

There are no appeals rights for the grant, our decision is final.   

Grant offer letter

The grant offer letter will detail the agreed project expenditure and your ongoing obligations under the terms and conditions of the grant.   

This will include the value of the grant against specific items of expenditure, any specific conditions relating to your grant and your ongoing obligations once the grant monies have been paid. 

This will also include how long you must retain the grant funded items within the business.

Recipients of Rural Fund grants must not sell or otherwise dispose of the facility, equipment or items purchased through the grant within 3 years of the date on which the grant is paid otherwise an appropriate proportion of the proceeds, equal to the proportion of the original cost met by the grant, may have to be surrendered to the Council.

The equipment or items shall not be returned to the Council for disposal.  

If you do not meet the obligations of the grant offer letter, your funding could be at risk and the grant could be subject to recovery in full. 

Neither the Council, nor the government will accept deliberate manipulation of the scheme or fraud.

Any applicant found to be falsifying information to gain grant money or failing to declare entitlement to the grants may face prosecution and any funding issued will be recovered from them.  

How will we pay out the grants 

Once you have signed and returned your grant offer letter, you can purchase your agreed capital items. 

The grant will be paid after the grant supported items are on site works completed and payment by the business to its suppliers has been made in full and the items are in your ownership. 

For this reason, applicants must ensure they have the necessary cash flow resources to fund these purchases before grant monies are paid. 

Grant will be paid as a single payment once you have completed the grant claim form and supplied the necessary supporting evidence.

This will include invoices, bank statements showing that invoices have been paid and photographs of the items in situ. 

Project items purchased with cash are not eligible for grant funding.

All project expenditure must be made by bank transfer, cheque or another auditable method. 

Claims for expenditure not included in the grant offer letter, will be ineligible for grant assistance.

Similarly, expenditure that pre-dates the formal grant award offer letter will be ineligible for grant assistance. 

We aim to pay grant monies by bank transfer within 20 working days of receipt of fully completed grant claim forms with all the required supporting evidence and no outstanding queries. 

Record keeping and site visits 

You must obtain and keep evidence to show that you have carried out all the requirements of your grant offer letter to support your grant claim and any site visits that may be undertaken by us following this payment. You must also keep evidence that you are eligible for the scheme. 

Your evidence must show that: 

  • you are eligible for the scheme 
  • the activities funded under your agreement are appropriate 
  • the funded activity is taking or has taken place 

We need you to do this so that we can demonstrate that public money is being spent effectively and is delivering the intended results. 

Data Protection policy and Privacy Notices  

All information and data provided by businesses will be dealt with in accordance with the Council's Data Protection policy and Privacy Notice

How to apply

Access to the New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is via a formal application process and the process is a competitive one.  

Before you start to complete the Application form it is important that you: 

To complete the application form: 

Step 1: Ensure you have all your supporting evidence available and in an electronic format ready to send to us, including quotations. The section above called 'What information will I be expected to submit as part of my application?' details the supporting information you will need to provide. 

Step 2:  Submit the fully completed application form and the cash flow forecast (available below)  

  • if you wish to send your documents using a secure file-sharing site, we can only accept documents on Dropbox, iCloud, WeTransfer and G-Drive
  • please note we cannot accept scanned copies or PDF versions of this form

Click to open these documents and ensure you save them to your computer before starting work on the Application form and Cash Flow Template: 

Due to the volume of enquiries to the Economic Development office during this period; please do not contact us to enquire on the progress of your application.

Please be assured we will process applications as quickly as possible. 

Once you have emailed us your application form you will receive an automatic response as confirmation of receipt. 

Contact details

The New Forest Rural Fund for Businesses is administered by the  Economic Development team. 

If you cannot find the answer to your question on this webpage, please email  

BusinessSupport@nfdc.gov.uk or call 023 8028 5735 

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