Mersey Rural Leader Fund

LEADER is an EU programme that aims to provide funding for businesses and organisations looking to begin or expand their operations in rural areas.

What separates it from other funding programmes is that it is delivered locally rather than nationally, with decisions on how and where the grant money is spent being made by an appointed Local Action Group (LAG) of key representatives from various organisations in the local area. The funding is from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) delivered via Defra through the Rural Payments Agency.

The overarching aims of the programme are to:

  • contribute towards improving the environment and the quality of life in rural areas;
  • strengthen the rural economy by helping micro and small businesses to create and sustain employment within the area;
  • and to improve competitiveness, particularly in the agriculture and forestry sectors.

The Mersey LEADER Team and Local Action Group benefit from a wealth of experience in a range of sectors and are here to help you with your application process.


The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has outlined six priorities for the LEADER programme. A proportion of each LEADER area’s funding has been allocated to each theme, to ensure a fair spread of funding across all types of organisations in the rural area. All projects that apply for LEADER funds must support one of the following:
1) Increasing Farm Productivity
2) Micro/Small Enterprises and Farm Diversification
3) Rural Tourism
4) Rural Services
5) Culture & Heritage
6) Increasing Forestry Productivity

More information on the priority areas can be found here.

Local Action Group

As LEADER is intended to be a locally-delivered grant funding programme, all decisions on which applicants receive funding are made by selected members of the Local Action Group, or LAG. The LAG consists of a range of representatives from each of the LEADER priorities, as well as a spread of expertise from public, private and voluntary sectors. This decentralises the decision and funding powers to the local level presenting a ‘bottom-up’ approach.

Though a project may successfully pass through the outline application procedure, it is ultimately up to the LAG to decide which projects to fund on the basis of their value for money and the benefits they will bring to the local rural area. While a project may be fully eligible, the LAG’s duty to ensure that the funding goes as far as possible means that no projects are guaranteed to receive funding.

How to apply
Before submitting an application, please check the type of projects that are eligible for funding, as well as ensuring that your project falls inside an eligible area.

Once you have done this, contact the Mersey Leader team who will advise you on which of your project costs will be eligible – you may also wish to consult the LEADER Applicant Handbook with more information on this.

You will then need to complete the Expression of Interest Form and send it to the LEADER Team as instructed in the Handbook. Contact details for the Mersey LEADER team members can be found below. A member of our team will work with you to help develop your project and complete an Outline Application, and if successful you will be invited to submit a full application. If your full application is eligible, it will then be presented to the LAG and a decision will be made within 40 working days of your submission.

Please note that applying for a LEADER grant does not guarantee you will be successful in receiving funding.

Contact us

If you wish to discuss any aspect of the Mersey LEADER programme, please do not hesitate to e-mail or call a member of our LEADER team:

Jonathan Jackson (Mersey LEADER Project Manager) – 0151 330 1395

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