Rural Development Programme for England and LEADER programme

Otterhead Estate

is a European Commission initiative to support the development of rural areas across the European Union (EU). First introduced in1991, it is designed to complement other rural development programmes. There have been three ‘rounds’ of LEADER as a programme in its own right:

  • LEADER I (1991 – 1994)
  • LEADER II (1995 – 1999)
  • LEADER+ (2000 – 2006)

All have been EU co-financed programmes focused on the economic, social and environmental regeneration of rural communities.

The Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013

The Rural Development Programme is jointly funded by the EU, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and the Government.

The RDPE 2007-2013 has a budget of £3.9 billion.  This is more than double the budget available for the previous programme which ran from 2000-2006.  £3.3 billion of the total budget will be allocated to agri-environment and other land management schemes.  This funding will help farmers to manage the land more sustainably and deliver important outcomes on biodiversity, landscape and access, climate change and the protection and enhancement though appropriate management of historic and archaeological features.

Regional Implementation Plans (RIPs) set out how the next Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) will be used in each of the England regions. The content of the plans inform the content of the detailed England Programme Document

Guidance on the England Rural Development Programme is available from the .

LEADER and the historic environment

With its emphasis on local action, LEADER has been particularly successful in helping local groups identify and care for their heritage.  The delivery of Axis 3 measures within the RDPE through LEADER now offers new opportunities for heritage-based projects including:

  • Encouragement for tourism activities
  • Village renewal
  • Conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage

English Heritage encourages Local Action Groups (the local partnerships), working alongside the RDAs and others, including Natural England and the Forestry Commission to build on this good work.  Individuals, local communities and local organisations can become involved in planning and projects relating to the historic environment by:

  • Representing their local community on the Local Action Group
  • Commenting on and putting forward ideas to the Local Action Group on their development plan
  • Suggesting and becoming involved in projects

The publication Leader and the Historic Environment (September 2008, Product Code 51455) describes some of the important work carried out by the LEADER+ Programme to realise the potential of the historic environment.  It is hoped the examples contained within the document will inspire others during the delivery of the 2007-13 RDPE.  The publication has been produced by English Heritage with funding with assistance from Defra and the EU, and has been approved by the England LEADER+ Programme Monitoring Committee.

Other sources of LEADER information

The England LEADER+ Programme 2000–06 has now closed to project applicants, but useful information for 2007–13 is available at and for the UK LEADER+ Network at

What's New?

Otterhead Estate. Former fishponds which are now a haven for wildlife.
© N. Griffiths