Cotswolds LEADER Explained

LEADER is a national programme and is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Grant decisions were made locally by an appointed Local Action Group (LAG) of key representatives from various organisations in the local area.

LEADER Priorities

The programme has created new jobs and grown the rural economy through capital grant investment. The programme has supported a wide range of businesses, farmers and not for profits under the six LEADER priorities of:

Priority 1 – Support to increase farm productivity

Investment in innovative business practices and new technologies to help become more productive and sustainable. This priority was open to farmers / groups of farmers / horticultural producers / processing businesses and there were four main types of projects that could be supported:

  1. A project to improve overall performance and sustainability
  2. An investment to support animal health and welfare improvements
  3. The processing, marketing and/or development of agricultural products
  4. An investment in reservoirs and irrigation systems

Priority 2 – Support for micro and small businesses (non-agricultural) and farm diversification

Supporting rural businesses and the establishment of new rural enterprises to secure strong rural economic growth, particularly those developing innovative approaches or techniques and those critically dependent upon the Cotswolds environment for success. This priority was open to start-up and existing micro and small businesses, social enterprises / farming or horticultural businesses.

Priority 3 – Support for rural tourism

For projects developing high quality visitor products and services that link tourism providers, extend the tourism season and encourage visitors to stay. This priority was open to start-up and existing micro and small businesses / farm businesses diversifying into tourism activities / community groups / local authorities / charities.

Priority 4 – Provision of rural services

This priority aims to alleviate some of the difficulties faced by rural communities, particularly lack of access to services and the provision of infrastructure. Projects should contribute to growing the local economy. This priority was open to start-up and existing micro and small businesses / community organisations / charities / partnership working / local authorities (in exceptional circumstances where it is in addition to statutory requirements).

Priority 5 – Support for cultural and heritage activity

Supporting local initiatives, which draw on the heritage and traditions of the Cotswolds, to create jobs and growth through an approach that celebrates the culture and enhances the sustainability of the area. This priority was open to start-up and existing micro and small businesses / community organisations / charities / landowners / local authorities (in exceptional circumstances where it is in addition to statutory requirements).

Priority 6 – Support for increasing forestry productivity

Supporting the return of neglected woodlands into productive management to stimulate and develop forestry and woodland product markets. This priority was open to owners or tenants of private forestry holdings / micro, small and medium-sized forestry contracting businesses.


Cotswolds LEADER Eligible Area

The Cotswolds LEADER area covered much of the Cotswolds AONB and some areas beyond such as parts of the Severn Vale and west Oxfordshire, as illustrated in the map below.


Cotswolds LEADER criteria and principles

Cotswolds LAG prioritised funding for new and innovative projects that did not lead to direct competition/displacement of current business activities. Grant funding was used to address a clear market gap, rather than to compete more effectively with existing businesses in the LAG area.

All projects made a measurable contribution to the development of the local economy. This would usually be in the form of job creation and turnover/profit increases in the businesses supported.

LEADER funds were for capital purchases only. Funding was intended to act as a pump-primer resource where investment leads to sustainable long-term economic benefits.

LEADER funds were designed to support activities that would otherwise not take place. For example, if a business was able to expand/develop its activities without grant intervention (i.e. – by using bank loans or own funds), there would be no justification for grant intervention. LEADER was considered to be a funder of last resort.

Grants were available from £5,000 to £50,000. For exceptional projects with high job outputs, grants from £50,000 to £100,000 were considered. This higher amount was only available under Priority 2 “Support for micro & small Businesses and farm diversification”. The grant intervention rate was limited to 40% of the total eligible project cost with the remainder being obtained through private funding.

The application process took between 3-6 months depending on how quickly applicants were able to complete the full application forms and the complexity of the project.

Grants were paid retrospectively after submitting evidence that costs have been incurred (i.e. – invoice and proof of payment). Funds would be reimbursed at the percentage level of grant funding that the LAG had agreed to contribute. For example, if the LAG had agreed to provide 40% of project costs, we would reimburse £5,000 after receiving evidence of £12,500 spend.

A Local Action Group; the LAG made the funding decisions. A group of 12, 7 of whom were appointed through open recruitment and 5 appointed from the Accountable Body; Cotswolds Conservation Board. As at September 2019, the LAG members were:

Jo Burgon (Chairman), John Matthews (Vice Chairman), Sam Phillips, Alison Robinson, Russell Warner, Jeff West, Carl Woodwards, Ben Dent, Rebecca Charley, Nigel Colston, Liz Hodges & Cate Mack.

A big thank you to our LAG members, past and present, who have been a massive credit to the Programme.


Cotswolds LEADER Programme team

James Webb, Programme Manager
Lioba Erwert, Programme Assistant
Mandy Pressland, Office Manager

cotswoldsleader@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk