Groups that are planning to apply for a grant under one of the England Rural Development Programme's project-based schemes are being advised to contact their local Rural Development Service office as soon as possible to discuss their proposals.
The RDS has announced that 30 June 2006 will be the last date for new applications for the schemes, which include the Rural Enterprise Scheme, the Processing and Marketing Grant, the Vocational Training Scheme and the Energy Crops Producer Group Scheme.
This is because these schemes will not be rolled forward into the next rural development programme, which will run from 2007 to 2013, after the current programme closes at the end of this year.
Responsibility for distributing funding will transfer from the RDS to Regional Development Agencies in September, and funding guidelines will be set in line with regional priorities.
The changes are part of Defra's Rural Strategy 2004, which has been designed to simplify funding for rural areas so that it meets the needs of rural people and businesses in each region better than before.
Defra will soon launch a public consultation on the priorities for the new programme.