SELEP’s rural economy is a rich mosaic of traditional and innovative land-based businesses, including farming, horticulture, viticulture, forestry and rural tourism. These sit alongside a broad range of non-rural businesses. In March 2014, SE LEP published its Rural Strategy focussing on the local economy, communities and the environment, and aiming to support the area’s estimated rural population of 936,000 – nearly a quarter of the 3.9m residents in the whole area.

The launch of the SELEP Rural Strategy followed hot on the heels of £14.5m of new EU funding announced by SELEP and DEFRA, to support rural business in the area. As part of the EU’s European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development scheme, micro and small businesses will now be able to apply for awards of a minimum £50,000 to help support projects to deliver the aims of the SELEP Rural Strategy.

SELEP is one of just five LEPs in the country to have launched this fund.

Other smaller grants will be available to rural business and rural communities through the EU LEADER programme spearheaded by nine rural community groups and endorsed by DEFRA and SELEP.

Amongst a range of activity planned in support of the Rural Strategy, SELEP also continues its help to establish a network of Food Enterprise Zones in the South East.

Our Rural Strategy was approved by the SELEP Strategic Board on 20th March, 2015 and details our vision for rural growth, balancing support of the rural economy, local communities and the environment.