The last West Kent LEADER programme 2006 - 2013, awarded over £1.25 million grant funding to 62 projects which generated over £3.4 million investment into West Kent. A new Local Development Strategy was developed through 2014 and has successfully secured further funding for West Kent, starting in 2015.
A wide variety of applicants were supported with grants ranging from £587 to £55,350, including 3 new business start ups and over 35 jobs created. Projects included farming and forestry business support and diversification, tourism ventures, rural business expansion and local community services.
Examples of some of our projects:
Following the closure of the Village stores in 2011, a temporary shop was opened in a shipping container run entirely by volunteers while a permanent solution was sought. Planning permission was obtained and funds raised through the sale of shares to local residents. The award of a grant from West Kent LEADER ensured that the local community now has a shop serving locally produced foods, a post office and community hub with small café area.
The purchase of two second hand charcoal retorts, the construction of two new retorts and the purchase of ten steel storage bins was made possible with a LEADER grant enabling the Tregothnan Estate to start the in-house production of charcoal. Following the retirement of the external contractor, this enabled the estate to continue the production of local charcoal utilising the timber from the estate woodlands and using the existing estate labour.
Mereworth Estate is an expanse of ancient woodland with a large diversity of plant and animal life carefully managed by a woodland team led by a father and son with a combined 75 years service with the estate. The project was to purchase a new timber trailer and crane to reduce the number of journeys required to extract the coppiced wood in its unprocessed form from the woodland.
In January 2012 after a series of cuts in the price they were receiving for their bulk milk, the Bastable family decided to add value to the milk from their dairy herd and diversify into making cheese and ice cream on the farm. LEADER grant funding helped in the purchase of the cheese and ice cream making equipment as well as contributing to the website and marketing of the produce.
Chiddingstone Castle can be traced back to the early 16th century and has been owned and lived in by an eclectic mix of people and families. The building is currently managed by Trustees who sought funding from LEADER to upgrade the car park, which is also used as a village resource, install brown Tourism signs to direct visitors to the castle and re-decorate a room to be used as a village archive facility.