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New support for South West rural land-based businesses

A new project that offers a region-wide business support package for the rural land-based sector is being launched next month (December).

The Objective One invested Rural Enterprise Gateway (REG) project has been developed as a key initiative within the region's Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food.

It has been developed by a number of regional partners working closely together, including Business Links, South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), NFU, regional agricultural bodies and rural business representatives.

Aiming to give rural businesses streamlined access to information, training and business development support, it will be officially launched on December 2 at the Royal Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet.

REG project manager David Hynd said: "Managed regionally by Business Link Devon and Cornwall and delivered locally through all the Business Links, it shows how everyone working together can provide joined-up support to rural businesses across the region."

Colin Molton, South West RDA Director of Operations and Development, said: "As the major funder of this exciting initiative, our priority is to help businesses take advantage of the opportunities presented by a changing rural economy. This project will make it much easier for rural businesses to access information, training and business development support, as well as address the priorities identified in the regional implementation plan of the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food."

Groups of agricultural and land-based businesses will receive investment and support for developing their businesses, training and other needs as well as tailored information reports from a Knowledge Network Service.

The REG will also provide free information and signposting for rural and agricultural business issues both online and by phone and act as gateway to other initiatives that help the rural sector develop its ideas and expertise across the region. In addition, the project will invest in an English Farming and Food Partnerships adviser to work with co-operative groups and on collaborative opportunities.

The launch event (9.30am to 3.30pm) will be chaired by John Lee, chairman of the REG Steering Group.

One of the highlights will be a talk by celebrity chef Rob Rees on the importance of local food. A governor of the British Nutrition Foundation and a director of Gloucestershire Taste of the West, he is also a member of the National SME Taskforce for the Sector Skills Council, a director of Stroud and Mid-Gloucestershire Education Business Partnership and a former board member of the Food Standards Agency.

Other speakers will include Sir Harry Studholme, chairman of the South West Chamber of Rural Enterprise and a board member of the South West RDA, and Gloucestershire farmer Colin Branston.

Said David Hynd: "The event will also provide vital networking opportunities and information on the wide variety of support available to agricultural and other land-based businesses in the region."

The project has received investment from the South West RDA with additional investment from the Objective One Programme through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Focus of the afternoon will be workshop sessions on Protecting Farmland, the Environment and Profit, Marketing for Rural Businesses and Benefiting from Collaboration.


Editor's notes:

Business Link Devon and Cornwall delivers the national Business Link service to the two counties under contract from the DTI's Small Business Service.

Business Link provides a free information and enquiry service via an information gateway on the web and via the telephone on 0845 600 9966 to all businesses and those considering starting a business. Additionally it provides impartial business advice and support through a network of partner organisations, which it co-ordinates, and a register of independent business practitioners.

Press enquiries in the first instance should be directed to:

Carolyn Daw
Telephone: 01822 833488
Mobile : 07866 697 057

Sarah Gunn
Telephone: 01752 509581

Direct enquiries should be directed via the marketing department to Leanne Lidstone or Janice Brazell on 0845 600 9966.

South West of England Regional Development Agency

The South West RDA is one of the nine RDAs covering England and charged with creating conditions in which businesses and communities can thrive. The South West region comprises Gloucestershire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; and the unitary authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, Bournemouth, City of Bristol, North Somerset, Plymouth, Poole, South Gloucestershire, Swindon, and Torbay.

South West England has almost 5 million residents. More than half live in rural areas – the highest proportion for any English region. It also covers the largest land area of any English RDA. The RDA has a budgetary allocation of £131.4 million in 2003/4 and £130.8 million in 2004/5.

European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF)

EAGGF is one of the four funds that make up the Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which is making £314m available to support the local economy between 2000 and 2006.

EAGGF aims to:

Help preserve the link between diversified farming and the land.
Improve and support the competitiveness of agriculture as a key activity in rural areas.
Ensure the diversification of the economy in rural areas.
Help to keep thriving communities in rural areas.
Preserve and improve the environment, the landscape and the rural heritage.



Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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