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Ashford Rural Boost Grant

The first round of funding has closed and future rounds will be available after April 2024.

The Rural Boost Grant of £500 to £3,000 aims to facilitate projects in commercial premises in rural areas of the Ashford Borough for food and drink production businesses and those in the hospitality and tourism sectors. This grant will support businesses to improve productivity, operational processes and support their viability and growth. Please check the full policy attached to this page for all the details about this grant or see the overview below.

This grant cannot be used in conjunction with the Ashford Rural Investment Grant. It can be used in conjunction with other financial support schemes available, subject to those other schemes allowing this, except any funding deriving from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Applications will open in rounds, with the first round being from December 2023 to 4 February 2024. Applications submitted outside of these times will not be considered subject to significant material considerations and mitigating factors. These dates may vary at short notice depending on the level of applications the council receives.

Please read the full policy attached at the bottom of this page and take a look at each grant’s page for further information.

Note: Works allowed under these grant schemes may require Planning Permission. Please click on the relevant guidance below to see what applicants need to consider and how to contact the Planning department about projects or how to submit a planning application.

Planning Guidance

Policy

Ashford Rural Boost Grant policy [pdf] 1190KB.

+ Eligibility Criteria

  1. The applicant is a commercial entity registered in the Ashford Borough. This includes but is not limited to, micro, small and medium businesses.
  2. The subject commercial premises must be located within the designated Rural area as defined under ‘Rural England Prosperity Fund’ by the Department for Environmental and Rural Affairs (Defra). Where the site or the wider land crosses across the designated area the Council reserves the right to assess these on a case-by-case basis. View Ashford Rural Area Maps [pdf] 569KB.
  3. The business can demonstrate the need and the expected benefits of the works proposed.
  4. Only capital projects for business purposes are eligible.
  5. Applications from non-profits or voluntary organisations may be considered subject to the proposal clearly benefitting commercial businesses directly.

+ Work that can be carried out using this funding

Through this grant, Ashford Borough Council will support the purchase and installation of assets such as buildings or equipment that improves a business’ productivity and growth in the rural area.

Examples of capital projects that the grant could support include:

  • New commercial ovens for a rural bakery
  • New signage or interpretation boards for a tourism venue
  • Purchase and installation of new IT or epos equipment

Works that may require Planning Applications (such as Listed Building Consent, Advertising Consent or similar) can be considered. Applicants will need to submit their Planning Application, if required, before submitting the grant application.

+ Levels of grant

Applicants are required to provide fully costed quotes of the works being proposed. The assessment will consider this and, if successful, applicants will receive a grant equivalent to 80% of the cost of works (excluding VAT). The minimum level of grant allowed under this scheme is £500 and the maximum level is £3,000.

In exceptional circumstances the council reserves the right to award a higher level of grant where this may be necessary and where there is supporting and significant additional evidence have been submitted.

+ Information and evidence needed for application

  • A completed application form
  • Evidence that:
    • The applicant is the freeholder or leaseholder or where written consent from the site owner to carry out the work, has been obtained and submitted
    • The applicant has the funds available for their share of the project costs (20%, excluding VAT)
    • The applicant should demonstrate they have considered the Planning guidance in relation to their project and have submitted a Planning Application where necessary
  • For projects costing up to £3,123 (excluding VAT) one fully costed quote for the works is necessary. For projects costing more than this, three fully costed quotes will be necessary.
  • Recent photos of the site, clearly showing the areas the project will address
  • Details of any grants or funding received from a public authority in the previous three years
  • Any further information or evidence required or which the applicant considers relevant

+ Monitoring and assurances

The grant will be paid to successful applicants once conditions are met such as (but not limited to):

  • The works proposed are due to start imminently and be completed in a reasonable time
  • Any permissions such as Planning Permission have been successfully obtained

The condition of payment for this grant will be included in the decision notification sent to the applicant and is discretionary (to be applied on a case-by-case basis). For grant applications requiring a Planning Application, the grant can only be paid if Planning Permission has been received by the applicant.

The council reserves the right to attend the site to monitor the progress of work until the expected end date detailed in the applicant’s proposal. The council has the discretion to reclaim the grant funding if the conditions are not met within a reasonable time.

+ Terms and conditions

  • Quotes for the work must be provided
  • Grant applications (and relevant Planning Applications) must be made before work takes place
  • Our staff must be allowed to inspect the works and see all relevant documentation
  • It is the responsibility of applicants to comply with all relevant regulations and legislation
  • It is the responsibility of applicants to check and confirm whether they comply with the Subsidy Control requirements (formerly State Aid)
  • Applicants agree to report quarterly to the council on progress of their project and outcomes linked to the REPF guidance.
  • Applicants agree to comply with the REPF and UKSPF marketing and branding guidelines linked to their project
  • Any grant money awarded, must be repaid within 1 year of the payment if:
    • The applicant removes the materials or equipment within 12 months of receiving the grant (regardless of whether the applicant moves property)
    • The applicant does not maintain the equipment or the utilities connections during the 12 months after receiving the grant
    • Works are undertaken without obtaining the relevant permissions or licences as needed
    • The works are not undertaken

+ Subsidy Control (formerly State Aid)

A subsidy is where a public authority such as a Local Authority provides support to an enterprise that gives them an economic advantage, meaning equivalent support could not have been obtained on commercial terms.

On 4 January 2023, the UK’s new subsidy control regime came into force, implementing a new subsidy regulation framework designed for the post-Brexit era. Underpinned by the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (the “Act”), related statutory instruments and government guidance, the new regime aims to grant public authorities the power to design and award subsidies in an agile way while complying with the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control.

For smaller value subsidy awards, Minimal Financial Assistance (MFA) allows financial assistance of up to a maximum limit of £315,000 to be made to a single enterprise within a rolling period of three financial years (consisting of the current financial year and the two previous financial years), without the need to comply with the majority of the subsidy control requirements.

However, MFA requires a written declaration from the beneficiary confirming that the limit has not been exceeded before the subsidy can be awarded. This effectively mirrors the historic EU De Minimis regime but sets the threshold at a fixed sterling amount and at a higher level than previously.

Applicants will therefore be required to provide information and a declaration in relation to subsidies they may have received in the previous three years.

+ Exclusions

  • For the avoidance of doubt, businesses that are in administration, insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made, are not eligible for funding under this scheme.
  • Projects or work that has already been undertaken will not be eligible. This funding is not retrospective.
  • Businesses that have already received grant payments that equal the maximum permitted levels of subsidy will not be eligible to receive funding. (See Subsidy Control section)
  • Project proposals that have already received, or are eligible to apply for, funding from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are not eligible.
  • Businesses or organisations that have already received funding from another REPF funded grant programme, or projects that are eligible for another REPF grant programme, as administered by Ashford Borough Council, will not be eligible for this scheme. View Ashford REPF Programmes and other Defra Funding [pdf] 593KB.
  • Sites that are located outside of the designated Rural area as defined by Defra for the purposes of this funding.
  • This funding should not be used as a wage support mechanism or for revenue costs such as ongoing maintenance or utilities costs.
  • This funding cannot be used to pay for costs directly to Ashford Borough Council (for example Planning applications) or for significant work to the Council’s land/property that falls within a schedule of maintenance and for which the council is responsible as owner.

+ Decisions

The funding available for these grant schemes is very limited and the council will likely need to prioritise applications to provide best value for money. Decisions will be taken by a panel and each round of decisions will prioritise eligible applications based on the practical impact and deliverability of their project.

Applications will only be taken forward to be decided where all the relevant information and evidence has been submitted by the applicant. The decision to award any grants under this scheme will be taken by a panel of Borough Councillors and key stakeholders. The panel will meet quarterly throughout the year, although this is subject to change. The decision reached by the panel will be final and the council will not consider any appeals submitted. Applicants will subsequently be notified of the outcome of their application.

+ Queries

All enquiries about this grant funding and this policy should contact prosperity.funding@ashford.gov.uk.