Mentoring service for LEADER projects

The West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP) is one of many units around the country which provide EU and Government supported LEADER assistance for projects.

I spoke recently with Kevin Santry of WCDP.

Last week’s report from this interview dealt with LEADER project evaluation.

A mentoring service is available before, during and after project evaluation, from a panel of mentors with experience and expertise in marketing (including social media marketing such as Twitter and Facebook), accounting, health and safety, project management. The mentoring is 100% funded in most cases, so although there is no such thing as free money, there is free advice.

In general, the LEADER programmes only fund micro-enterprises, these being businesses with less than 10 employees.

For community-based projects, 75% funding can be available for successful applicants, meaning that a community must come up with 25% funding itself. However, one key factor is that the community’s own labour, or the voluntary donation of assets towards a community-based project, can be taken into account as part of that 25%.

There is a huge range of projects in West Cork that have benefited, which in some cases owe their success to LEADER funding — from the farm walk trails at Drimoleague to the redeveloped Cadogan Strand in Schull, the Goleen Community Hall, the copper mine museum at Beara, the Bantry Driving Academy, the Skibbereen Food Festival.

Kevin Santry singles out a number of beneficiaries to show the range of projects that LEADER can fund. On the community project side, the establishment of the Skibbereen Food Festival was hugely successful, and what started out as a one-day event has turned into a week-long festival with food demonstrations, cook-offs, food seminars and a showcase of west Cork’s finest cuisine. The festival occurs at a traditionally “off-peak” time of year, and brings a huge volume of tourism and custom to the town.

On the private project funding side, PK Rubber is a business which recycles used tyres into other rubber products. This project was particularly appealing to the LEADER funding programme due to its positive environmental impact.

Another private project which was grant aided is the Bantry Driving Academy — a purpose-built driver educational facility. This training centre caters mainly for young drivers who can learn and develop their driving skills firstly in a driving simulator and then on a purpose-built track.

In relation to funding, Kevin said that they are currently midway in their funding programme, with another two years left, and there is still plenty of funding available for viable projects.

He pointed out that there is one catch, due to technical changes in EU aid food projects have not been included in the latest funding round.

From the perspective of farming and our Food Harvest 2020 plan, this is a serious fly in the ointment. Without support for food production and food diversification we are losing out on the opportunity to benefit fully from the expansion in agriculture.

Kevin cited Bandon Vale Cheese, Coolmore Foods, Gubeen Cheese and Shellfish de la Mer as previous recipients of LEADER funds which now provide valuable employment in West Cork.

There is some limited County Council grant aid under a separate scheme from their economic development fund. Information on this fund is available via your local LEADER group.


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