Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: economic growth in rural areas

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Applies to England

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/stimulating-economic-growth-in-rural-areas. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Economic growth is a top priority. We want rural areas to contribute to and benefit from this growth, even though they face particular challenges.

We’ve taken action to improve competitiveness and skills, invest in rural tourism and support micro-enterprises.


Rural Development Programme for England

We are committed to supporting rural communities by protecting our environment, growing the rural economy and creating more jobs. Our Rural Development Programme, part of the Common Agricultural Policy, will invest £3.5 billion between 2014 to 2020. Over £3 billion is for the environment and nearly £500 million will help grow farming, food and the rural economy.

Rural broadband and mobile infrastructure

We’re building a broadband and mobile network to help the rural economy. We’re doing this through the £780 million Superfast Rollout Programme (which is UK-wide) to deliver a transformation in broadband.

We’re also improving mobile coverage in areas where it is poor or non-existent through the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project (which is UK-wide).

Rural Growth Network pilots

We’re supporting 5 Rural Growth Networks pilots in rural areas, designed to help rural businesses overcome barriers to economic growth.

Rural Community Energy Fund

We’ve launched a fund to help rural businesses pay for the up-front costs of developing their own renewable energy schemes. The fund operates in two stages: providing small grants to test the viability of schemes at stage one, and larger loans to prepare fully costed business cases at stage two.

For more information and to download an application form, visit the WRAP website.

Rural tourism

We’ve launched a rural tourism fund aimed at attracting more people to rural areas and encouraging them to stay longer when they visit. We’ve invested £12 million in Visit England’s marketing campaigns such as the Holidays at Home are Great. We also invested £6 million in projects under the Rural Development Programme for England to make rural destinations more attractive and accessible. This includes support for rural communities in creating local path networks and for iconic landscapes in developing sustainable tourism.

Growth deals

Growth deals are a crucial part of the government’s long term economic plan to secure a better future and stronger economy. Growth deals will make around £12 billion available to Local Enterprise Partnerships to spend on their priorities from 2015 to 2021.

Food and drink exports action plan

The International Food and Drink Action Plan was launched in 2012 and refreshed in 2013. It sets out how we’ll work with rural businesses to encourage and help them to export the food and drink they produce. Exports are targeted to grow by £500m before October 2015, through promotion, trade development, opening new markets, unlocking barriers and simplifying support and trade procedures.


Around 9.3 million people live in rural areas in England. There are around 490,000 businesses registered in rural areas - 26% of all registered businesses in England. Rural businesses are as diverse as those in urban areas.

Our provisional estimate is that predominantly rural areas in England contributed around £210 billion to the economy in 2013.

Appendix 1: skills and knowledge transfer programme

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We’re organising a range of training and networking programmes for business people in rural areas.

The programmes and training include:

  • agricultural animal health and welfare
  • marketing and efficient supply chains for agriculture, horticulture and forestry
  • using resources efficiently in agriculture, horticulture and forestry
  • traditional rural skills and rural tourism

Appendix 2: rural growth network pilots

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We’ve set up 5 pilot rural growth networks (RGNs) designed to reduce barriers to economic growth in the countryside. These barriers include shortage of work premises, slow internet connections and business communities spread out over wide areas.

Between October 2012 and December 2014, the RGNs have assisted over 2,600 businesses, given advice to near 1,000 individuals interested in starting a business, created around 428 new ones and created or safeguarded over 780 jobs.

The 5 pilots are:

  • Cumbria
  • Heart of the South West (covering Devon and Somerset)
  • North East (covering areas of County Durham, Gateshead and Northumberland)
  • Swindon and Wiltshire
  • Warwickshire

By the end of December 2014, the RGN pilots had invested a total of £6.97 million of Defra’s funding, and levered in a further £12.8 million of match funding. If you wish to receive the Rural Growth Network news bulletin, please email: rural.communities@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

Here’s what the RGNs are doing:


The pilot received funding of £3,576,000. It set out to support 480 business start-ups and create or safeguard up to 900 jobs through improving the facilities for rural businesses, such as new employment sites with workspace. The RGN supports thematic (sectoral) networks which include food and drink, digital and creative, agri-business/forestry and adventure capital, with business support provided via a web portal. More information.

Heart of the South West

The pilot received funding of £2,962,000. It set out to create over 1,000 jobs by offering business support as well as creating a network of rural hubs offering a range of different business accommodation for both new businesses and those with high growth potential. More information.

North East

The pilot received funding of £3,201,290. The RGN set out to create or safeguard 300 jobs and 40 new businesses, whilst offering support to 200 existing businesses. The RGN is supporting small business growth across rural communities through the provision of flexible workspace. More information.

Swindon and Wiltshire

The pilot received funding of £1,990,000. This RGN aims to create 150 new jobs and provide support for 150 existing businesses and continues to have a focus on supporting former military personnel and their spouses to start up new businesses, as well as helping existing business to grow. This is being aided by the creation of a small number of Enterprise Centres, as well as a range of other support for businesses. More information.


The pilot received funding of £2,402,726. It aims to create or safeguard 500 jobs, provide support to 400 businesses, with 120 new business start-ups. This is being achieved through specialist coaching, mentoring and networking, as well as financial support to business, with specific targets for women led enterprise in the start-up support, business growth and small business loan activities. More information.

Appendix 3: rural development programme for England

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) is a funding programme under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with a budget of £3.5 billion. The current programme runs from 2014 to 2020.

It aims to support rural areas in ways that recognise the connection between agriculture and the environment.

The objectives of the programme are:

  • to benefit many different aspects of rural life including improving the environment
  • helping make UK food and farming the best in the world
  • protecting against animal and plant disease
  • creating jobs and growing the rural economy

There are separate rural development programmes for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The current programme has four elements which will progressively open during 2015. Find out more about rural grants and schemes currently available.

Environmental schemes

We will be spending £3.1 billion on environmental schemes. Around £900m will be available under the new Countryside Stewardship scheme. This is for farmers and land managers who voluntarily manage their land in ways that benefit the environment to meet local priorities. Around £2.1 billion will pay farmers and foresters who are already in environmental schemes from the previous programme.

Countryside Productivity

We’re spending £141 million helping the farming and forestry industry to become highly skilled. It will also help new farmers to start-up their business. We’ll be working with the industry to develop world class production and supply chains, collaborating to develop the sector using the latest technology and innovation.

Growth Programme

We will spend £177 million on the Growth Programme to help new and existing rural businesses. It’ll help get new rural businesses off the ground. It will also help existing businesses to develop new products and facilities like investing in broadband, renewable energy and promoting rural tourism. Local Enterprise Partnerships and local partners will help us decide how to spend funds in their area.


We will give local communities the responsibility and resources to identify local needs and fund projects to meet them. £138 million will be available to LEADER groups. Local LEADER groups will decide how to spend funds in their area. At least 70% of funding will go directly on job creation and growth.

The Rural Development Programme for England is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.