County bids for rural funds to level up towns ‘lagging behind’

County Hall, Northallerton.

North Yorkshire County Council is set to submit a £5.4m bid to government’s Rural England Prosperity Fund to level-up towns that are “lagging behind”.

The authority says the funding would help kick start micro and small enterprises, rural circular economy projects and volunteering and social action schemes to develop social and human capital in local places.

The plan set to be approved at a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive on Tuesday does not specify which places the authority views as “lagging behind”, but does state the government funds would be evenly split between projects to boost communities and places and those aimed at supporting local businesses.

The former group of grants would be for small-scale investment in micro and small enterprises in rural areas, for growing the local social economy and supporting innovation and for the development and promotion of the visitor economy.

The other grants, totalling about £2.7m, would be invested in capacity building and infrastructure support for local civil society and community groups.

If approved by the government, the latter group of grants would see the provision of infrastructure for rural communities that supports resilience and nature-based solutions as well as the creation of and improvements to local rural green spaces.

Alongside this, capital grants would be given to support community green spaces, watercourses and embankments, the “greening” of streets and paths and to incorporate natural features into wider public spaces.

Funding would also be ploughed into cultural, historic and heritage institutions to improve visitor experiences and accessibility, rural circular economy projects and local arts, cultural, heritage and creative activities.

Finally, capital grants would be used for “impactful volunteering and social action projects”, to develop social and human capital in local places.

The application document states the county faces a productivity deficit against the UK average, partly due to low levels of export and inward investment and reliance on low-skilled jobs.

It adds: “North Yorkshire is predominantly defined by it’s rural landscape. Although a beautiful backdrop for tourism and a strong USP for living on the patch, it also creates deep-rooted challenges linked to accessibility, isolation and climate change.

“With two national parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, over 70 per cent of the geography being used for agriculture and unique marine and coastal assets, North Yorkshire is uniquely positioned to use its natural assets to capture and store carbon.

“There is an opportunity to maximise on these strengths and level-up those towns that are lagging behind within the sub-region.”

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