FARMERS and rural communities in the North York Moors and Ryedale are being urged to apply to a European Union funding programme - months before the UK leaves the EU.

The EU programme, named the North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER programme, has recently acquired additional funding, and so is now accepting applications for micro/small businesses, farm diversification projects and rural tourism groups.

Simon Britton, partner at land consultants George F White, said: “An increase in LEADER funding is fantastic news for the rural communities in North Yorkshire.

“It has been an interesting few years in regards to politics and the economy; as we approach our exit from the European Union, it is extremely important that rural communities take advantage of funding opportunities while they are still available.”

LEADER is a European Union initiative that encourages economic prosperity in rural areas and aims to help improve the quality of life of the communities.

The North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER programme covers a range of areas, including the North York Moors National Park, the Howardian Hills AONB, and the Vale of Pickering.

The project has been closed to new applicants since February 2018 due to what George F White says is a “staggering” volume of interest.

With this in mind, the company is urging farmers, landowners and business owners to submit their expression of interest as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Full applications are due by February 15, 2019, and a decision on those projects being taken forward will be announced in May 2019.

Mr Britton added: “This opportunity concentrates on small businesses, farm diversification projects and rural tourism.

“Since the programme opened in 2015, our team have been involved in countless LEADER applications across the North East with a similar focus.

“The team have achieved results such as funding for local rugby clubs, holiday accommodation and public animal parks, to name a few.”

The LEADER website states: “As of November 21, the programme has opened a short window of opportunity for new applications.

“You should be aware that the remaining funds in the programme will be subject to strong competition.

“We will continue to work with the RPA to request further funding, however current indications are that this is unlikely.”