In February 2009 the Wash Fens Rural Development Programme was awarded £2m to support project applications for rural development through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), LEADER (*) approach until 2013.
Wash Fens LEADER RDPE funding is a European Union initiative delivered through Defra and emda. Lincolnshire County Council, Boston Borough Council and Rural Action Zone also contribute financially to the programme.
In 2008, Lincolnshire County Council worked with local residents and organisations to form a Local Action Group (LAG) partnership based in a geographical area now known as the Wash Fens to bid for funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The LAG developed a Local Development Strategy (LDS) and is now working to implement that strategy by instigating and supporting projects that may be eligible to apply for funding through the new LEADER Approach element of the Rural Development Programme for England.
The Wash Fens Vision
The Wash Fens Local Action Group's vision is to:
"narrow the gap between the underperforming economic environment of the Wash Fens and the potential it possesses to be become a modern, thriving rural area where people choose to live, work and visit."
- a prosperous economy
- a great destination with an enviable quality of life
- a greener, sustainable environment.
Objectives and Priorities of the scheme
The Wash Fens LAG has summarised its objectives as follows:
- To broaden the quality and range of jobs available by encouraging diversification of economic activity, increasing business opportunities and raising people’s skills
- To maximise opportunities for the young, people coming into our communities and those not fulfilling their potential to utilise their skills and support a strong, diverse local economy
- To use the area’s key assets (landscape, coast, waterways, wildlife, cultural heritage and foremost producer of food) to sensitively take advantage of the potential economic impact that tourism brings and encourage healthier communities
- To protect, conserve and enhance our natural environment, biodiversity and rural heritage and to promote sustainable management which will safeguard assets for future generations
- To harness the energy of local partners and local communities to tackle rural deprivation
In support of the vision and objectives, the following delivery priorities have been agreed:-
Theme 1: A prosperous economy
"to create a strong, diverse economy and strengthen the agricultural and land based sector that are so important to the economy and as custodians of the natural environment. The LAG will develop activities which promote an entrepreneurial spirit and instil the principles of innovation and enterprise. It will support training which meets the skills requirements of new enterprises and higher level jobs."
- Projects which increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the land based sector through innovation and diversification
- Projects which improve the range and quality of jobs in the area through investment, innovation and enterprise within micro and small businesses
- Projects which make full use of the economic capabilities of young people, ethnic minorities, women returners and over 55s
- Projects which encourage more people to take part in learning, increase their skills and improve their economic prospects
Theme 2: A great destination with an enviable quality of life
"to use tourism to support the area economically, socially and environmentally. Visitors will bring additional trade and encourage the growth of new and existing enterprises. This will improve facilities and build a better quality of life for local people. "
- Projects which will help to revive communities and services in decline
- Projects which support the development of a quality leisure and tourism sector that will encourage visitor spend as well as enhancing choice for local people
- Projects which develop the waterways and capitalise on their potential with linked land based
recreational infrastructure such as cycling routes and footpaths, B & B accommodation, etc
- Projects which promote locally produced food and drink and build a reputation for outstanding, healthy, local produce, and add value to locally grown produce.
- Projects which improve provision and access to cultural activities
Theme 3 - A greener, sustainable environment
"to encourage the local population to live and work in a sustainable manner that will protect and conserve the area’s natural assets for future generations, placing an increased emphasis on climate change mitigation and adaption."
- Projects which help to mitigate and adapt to climate change
- Projects which support the protection, adaption and sustainability of the environment, landscape and biodiversity
- Projects which improve access to natural green space, the waterways and the Wash
- Projects which preserve and promote rural heritage which defines the character of the Wash
Fens, particularly regarding the built and natural environment
For further information, please view the Local Development Strategy (LDS) as detailed in the Wash Fens bid document - Wash Fens Local Development Strategy
The LEADER Approach
The Wash Fens Local Action Group (LAG) is a partnership formed in 2008 using the LEADER approach. The LEADER Approach is thought to be an effective tool to assist rural communities to improve the quality of life and economic prosperity in their local area by:-
- Engaging communities in developing their own plans for the future
- Generating a bottom-up, participative approach to solving local issues
- Developing new business and social opportunities
- Improving local capacity and governance
'LEADER' is a European Union initiative for assisting rural communities to improve the quality of life and economic prosperity in their local area. It was introduced as a 'Community initiative' financed under the EU Structural Funds. LEADER is now part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which is delivered by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), In the regions, and therefore the LEADER initiative.
In 1991 LEADER 1 provided rural communities in the EU with the resources to play an active role in shaping their own future. Information gained from evaluations and rural stakeholders indicates that the LEADER approach worked well in quite different situations and types of areas. There have been three generations of Leader: Leader I (1991–93), Leader II (1994–99) and Leader+(2000–06).
Through LEADER EU rural policy-making has adapted well to the extreme diversity of rural areas’ needs in Europe. For these reasons, it has now become an integral part of European rural development policy. For the 2007-13 programming period LEADER is no longer a separate programme but has been integrated (‘mainstreamed’) into all national/regional Rural Development Programmes. New possibilities have been opened for the LEADER approach to be applied on a far wider scale and across a much broader range of rural development activities than before.
To understand more about the LEADER approach there is a useful European Commission document called "The LEADER approach - A Basic Guide", which is available to download by clicking the link.
* The LEADER acronym means ‘Links between rural development actions’ (from the French - Liaisons entre actions de developpement rural).