FARMERS APPLYING for DEFRA grants will have more success if they can prove their projects provide community benefits, says one planning consultant.

“DEFRA is very keen to tie in the local community, which is all very well in theory, but can be quite difficult in practice. It’s not something a lot of people had thought about,” said Rosie Fraser of Bidwells’ Cambridge office.

But she said “thinking outside of the box” would be beneficial. “For example, somebody planning to convert a barn to a holiday let could include leaflets about farm walks and where holiday makers could buy local produce. DEFRA is looking for this kind of additionality” in grant applications.”

right of appeal

Miss Fraser also said many unsuccessful applicants were not aware that they had a right of appeal if they thought their application had been treated unfairly or an error had been made by DEFRA. “A letter should be sent to DEFRA clearly stating the grounds of the appeal.”

Some applications were being turned down due to lack of funds, but from 2006, when administration of project-based grants, like the Rural Enterprise Scheme, Processing and Marketing Grant and Vocational Training schemes, switches from DEFRA to the Rural Development Agencies, there could be more flexibility, she added.