Preparing is key for access to £15million

Rural businesses in Northumberland are being urged to gear themselves up for the chance to win part of a £15million grant windfall.

Northumberland, along with Durham, is one of five English regions to be identified by the Government as Rural Growth Network pilots – a national scheme designed to help new businesses to start up and existing small firms to grow.

The date for submitting grant applications has not yet been unveiled but it is expected in the next couple of months.

However, each regional grant allocation is likely to be massively oversubscribed and one industry expert is urging Northumberland businesses to think about their application now to avoid missing out.

Nigel Parsons, managing director of management accounts specialist Landmark Systems, said: “Our experience of similar grant schemes is that those who have done the groundwork ahead of time are the ones who are in the strongest position when the starting gun is fired.

“The application process will undoubtedly involve the submission of large amounts of financial information, business planning and growth modelling – the kinds of things that cannot just be plucked out of thin air.

“We would strongly recommend that anyone thinking of applying talks to their accountant now about their financial reporting arrangements to make sure they are fit for something like a central government grant application.”

In Northumberland the funding will focus on developing live-work units and developing better links between geographically isolated rural enterprises.

It is estimated that around 200 business will received financial support, creating or safeguarding around 300 jobs.

Mr Parsons added: “This is a huge opportunity for rural businesses in Durham and Northumberland. However, experience tells us that only those with the most compelling and comprehensive applications will succeed in releasing grant funding.”