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 Development Pilot 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 (Re-opening on 17 September 2021)

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, which previously closed on 30th July 2021, will open again for a short period for applications on Friday 17th September 2021 and close at 12noon Friday 24th September 2021. Late applications will not be accepted.

This second call this year is only open to new applicants therefore previous applicants in this year’s call (July 2021) cannot re-apply nor can those who have received funding under the scheme in previous years.

In order to assist you, one-to-one consultations are available for applicants intending to apply to the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme by contacting Officers on 07920 187172. These consultations will provide more detailed information on the grant application process.

A copy of the guidance notes and the application form are available to download from this page.

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 previously received funding under the TRPSI Rural Business Development Scheme in 2019-2020 or 2020-2021

- You have not applied for funding under the TRPSI Rural Business Development Scheme in the most recent call which closed on 30th July 2021

- 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 17 December 2021. 

It is anticipated that grant offers will be made in October 2021, and your project cannot commence until you receive a formal offer of funding. 

Please contact a member of the Rural Development Team on 07920 187172 or email

Download the Guidance Notes- September 2021

Download the Application Form (Word version)

SEAFLAG Grant Scheme

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

This Scheme is now closed.