Thousands of pounds available in grants to boost rural economy in Oxfordshire

Released on July 3, 2017

Grant funding is being made available by the Oxfordshire LEADER Programme for farmers, foresters, rural business and communities involved with projects that create jobs, bring visitors to the area or provide essential community services to local people. 

Applications for up to £75,000 in grant funding are administered by South Oxfordshire District Council and will be assessed by a Local Area Group (LAG), a non-political group that brings together public, private and community representatives to support, fund and monitor the projects. 

Projects must contribute to one or more of the following priorities:

  • increasing farm productivity
  • supporting micro and small businesses and farm diversification
  • boosting rural tourism
  • providing essential rural services
  • providing cultural and heritage activities
  • increasing forestry productivity.

The Oxfordshire LAG is particularly keen to see applications that will revive local waterways, support local food markets, create vibrant villages, or unlock the potential of woodlands. 

Potential applicants can find out if their project is in the Oxfordshire LEADER Programme area by visiting This link will take you to an external website...

The Oxfordshire LEADER Programme is open to applicants until March 2019. Anyone with a viable idea is being urged to contact Oxfordshire LEADER Programme Manager Sophie Milton by calling 01235 422245 or via

Elizabeth Gillespie, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Action Group said: “This is a great opportunity for rural projects, such as farming and tourism, to secure much needed funding which can help them grow their business and boost the local economy in the process.  We’ve got £1.5 million available however, grants have to be allocated by March 2019 so I would really urge anyone with a viable scheme to get in touch and start the application process as soon as possible.” 

Case Study – how Oxfordshire LEADER is helping rural businesses 

LEADER project case studyRodas Irving, owner One business that has already benefitted from an Oxfordshire LEADER grant is Oxford Oak, a one-man enterprise making bespoke outdoor furniture. Based at the Wood Centre in Long Wittenham, it was awarded a LEADER grant last year for new workshop equipment. This has provided a crucial stepping stone for the micro-business to expand and take on another member of staff. of Oxford Oak, said: “It’s had quite a big impact. Since the grant was awarded we’ve had three large orders come through and the new equipment has allowed us to work through these faster than before. We are now working more efficiently so it has freed up time for me to spend on marketing and getting more business in. Last week I took on a new permanent worker.” 

“The application process looks quite daunting when you first start, especially if you haven’t done this sort of thing before. But it’s worthwhile as it forces you to work through how you are going to expand your business and this helps get it clear in your own mind. It’s essential to get the objectives and benefits of the project right early on. The LEADER staff are very helpful when it comes to giving advice on how to write the document.”


Money for the Oxfordshire LEADER Programme comes from DEFRA's Rural Development Programme for England, this was awarded following a national bidding process. 

The Oxfordshire LEADER Programme is being administered by South Oxfordshire District Council on behalf of Vale of White Horse, Cherwell and West Oxfordshire District Councils.   South Oxfordshire District Council previously oversaw the successful Southern Oxfordshire LEADER Programme between 2008 and 2013 which saw a total of 61 wide ranging projects receive a share of £1.2million in grants.  These included a microbrewery in an old farm building, a cold store for turkey and goose sales, moorings by the River Thames and new village shops.  These projects also attracted more than £2.5million grants from the private sector and other funding. 

Local LEADER areas are limited to a maximum population of 150,000; however, other parts of Oxfordshire are covered by the Cotswolds, North Wessex Downs and Chilterns LEADER grant programmes. Details can be found at Oxfordshire Leader This link will take you to an external website...  

There are some rural areas in north Oxfordshire which do not fall into a LEADER area.

There is another Rural Development Programme for England fund called the Growth Programme which is available in those areas.