Rural development

Introduction to Rural Development

 Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Rural Development Section has the role of supporting businesses and the community in rural areas of our borough.  These roles include:

  •  Providing an administrative and financial management function to Ards and North Down Rural Partnership, which is the organisation tasked with delivering the NI Rural Development Programme in this area in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture
  • Rolling out the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme as part of DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme
  • Supporting the roll of SEAFLAG in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council as the lead administrator. DAERA has approved the NI FLAG Strategy 2018-2020, which outlines how €2.73 million (approx. £2.3 million) of funding should be allocated to the local fishing dependent communities, which includes Portavogie within this borough and up to a radius of 7 miles

 We currently have 3 main schemes to provide funding support which include:

NI Rural Development Programme

Ards and North Down Rural Partnership is the Local Action Group responsible for the deliver LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

The Partnership consist of eleven social partners and nine elected partners. 

Priority 6 of the Rural Development Programme identifies the importance of social inclusion, reducing poverty and developing the rural economy. Ards and North Down have received £3.85million for Priority 6 schemes as listed below.

  1. Rural Business Investment Scheme
  2. Rural Basic Services Scheme
  3. Village Renewal Scheme

1. Rural Business Investment Scheme

The scheme was designed to create jobs. It provided investment support to create and develop micro and small enterprises, including farm diversification and private tourism business in rural areas.

Funding of up to £90,000 for those looking to expand or develop a rural business in Ards and North Down Borough Council area, was available at up to a 50% grant rate.

The scheme provided aid to a range of services and businesses for both resource and capital based projects.

We have supported a variety of businesses throughout this scheme and will be releasing more details in the future of the recipients and the outcomes from our rural communities and businesses.

This Scheme has now closed.

2. Rural Basic Services Scheme

The Rural Basic Services Scheme supported capital investments which provided access to basic services or improvements in social infrastructure (including activities to reduce isolation and/or poverty) to improve the welfare and access to basic services of those living in rural areas and which is an integral part of, and in line with, the Council Community Plan and emerging priorities.

The level of capital grant funding was up to a maximum grant of £200,000 (75% of total project costs).  

Projects related to the main theme of Innovative Service Delivery, such as the creation of health hubs to deliver multiple services or community hubs where the capital infrastructure is put in place to allow a number of services to be delivered to the community. Infrastructure projects were limited to small scale capital developments (up to £200,000).  Resource funding was available towards marketing and bespoke training.

This scheme supported capital investments which:
• provided access to basic services or improvements in social infrastructure, including activities to reduce isolation or poverty
• improved the welfare and access to basic services of those living in rural areas
• were in line with and integral to the Council Community Plan and emerging priorities

This Scheme is now closed.

3. Village Renewal Scheme

This scheme is council-led. It will provide financial support for the drafting of integrated village plans, and for the renewal of rural villages through prioritises outlined in existing village plans.  The scheme will build on the overarching fabric of a village or town integrating with funding from other government departments and agencies.  It will also address rural dereliction and prioritise reuse of existing derelict buildings, particularly to provide community infrastructure. 

Rural Partners
To discuss a potential project idea, contact our Rural Development office.
Telephone: 028 9147 3788

Rural Business Development Grant Scheme (Opening for applications on 4 May 2022)

The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme will provide investment support for the development of existing enterprises based in a rural area of Ards and North Down to sustain or grow through DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty & Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme. Capital-only grants are available up to a maximum grant of £4999 available (up to 50% of the total costs of the project).

The scheme will be open for applications on Wednesday 4th May 2022 and closes at 12noon Tuesday 31st May 2022. 

Applications are submitted online and the system will not accept any applications submitted after the closing time.

Mandatory pre-application workshops will be taking place at 10am on Wednesday 27 April, 2pm on Thursday 28 April and 2pm on Tuesday 3 May.  These workshops will be held over zoom.  Only those businesses who attend a mandatory workshop will be able to apply to the scheme.  Please email with your preferred workshop date and the zoom link will be sent to you two days in advance.

A copy of the Guidance Notes available to download here

Please note the following pre-requisites:

  • Your business must be located in a rural area & have less than 10 full-time equivalent employees.
  • You have not received funding under last year’s (2021) TRPSI Rural Business Development Grant Scheme (If you received funding from the Scheme in 2019 or 2020 then you are eligible to apply this year)
  • The total cost of the capital project must be a minimum of £1,000 and must not exceed £20,000 of project costs. 
  • Procurement is to be included (minimum of two quotations for each item to be purchased)
  • The project must not have started and the proposed works must be completed by 31 October 2022. 

It is anticipated that grant offers will be made in late August / early September 2022, and your project cannot commence until you receive a formal offer of funding. 

For further info please contact a member of the Rural Development Team on 07920 187172 or email

SEAFLAG Grant Scheme

Up to £125,000 funding available, with the next application deadline - 31 January 2020

This Scheme is now closed.