Small Settlements Rural Investment Fund Stage 1: Expression of Interest
– 1. The Opportunity
– 2. Scheme Objective
– 3. Application Process
– 4. The Grant
– 5. Who can apply?
– 6. Who cannot apply?
– 7. What can be funded?
– 8. What cannot be funded?
– 9. Procurement
– 10. Statutory consents
– 11. Apply Now
1. The Opportunity
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council has developed a Rural Investment Fund funded through the COVID Recovery Small Settlements Regeneration Programme. The fund offers businesses situated in Small Settlements* the opportunity to apply for a grant towards capital costs for interior and exterior improvements to commercial buildings, expansions or repurposing of premises.
*Small Settlements are defined as areas with a population of between 1,000 and 4,999. These include; Aghalee, Annahilt, Ballinderry, Dromara, Drumbeg, Glenavy, Hillsborough, Maghaberry, Milltown, Moira and Moneyreagh.
2. Scheme Objective
The scheme will assist new businesses wishing to renovate a vacant property; or an existing business planning to diversify their current offer through repurposing an unused area within their premises.
The business premises must be situated within the black line boundary of the Small Settlement as demonstrated at Appendix 2.
It is important that improvements carried out within this scheme are appropriate to the character of the village they sit within and that a high standard of materials and workmanship are used.
The aims and objectives of the Rural Investment Fund is to:
- Improve the commercial offer in the village centre of Small Settlements by reducing the current vacancy rates and attracting new businesses.
- Enhance the environment and raise the image of the village.
- Decrease the number of vacant units in the village centre by offering financial assistance to:
a) reopen a business
b) repurpose an unused area in an existing business premises
c) new businesses wishing to renovate a vacant property
3. Application Process
Please see below a timeline for the application process. Submissions will be processed as and when received. Therefore, the sooner you submit the required information the quicker you will move through the process.
Applications will be assessed in the 3 stages as follows:
Stage 1 – Expression of Interest
Applicants are given the opportunity to apply through an expression of interest process and are required to submit an estimated cost to undertake the works. If the submission meets any one of the objectives of the scheme they will be invited to submit an application.
The following basic eligibility criteria applies and will be assessed on a pass/fail basis as part of the evaluation process:
- The property must be located within the black line boundary of a Small Settlement as demonstrated at Appendix 2.
- The property must be vacant and being taken on by a new business or an existing business wishing to repurpose an unused area in their business premises.
- The business must either own the property or have a minimum of three years remaining on their Lease.
Deadline for Expressions of Interest – Wednesday, 1st March 2023 at 12 noon
Stage 2 – Application
In order to progress this stage, the applicant will be required to provide further details of the proposed works.
Full application will include the provision of:
- Confirmation of engagement with competent architect (Contact details must be provided)
- An outline project plan providing detailed information about the project/concept design (please provide images / drawings separately)
- Written quotations for proposed works demonstrating value for money has been achieved (see procurement section for details)
- Written confirmation from the local planning department that details all necessary statutory consents required to carry out your project (including but not limited to: planning permission, advertising consent, listed building consent, building control consent, change of use etc.)
- Confirmation that 20% match funding in place with the applicant
- Evidence of security of tenure and written consent from property owner
If your application is successful, confirmation will be sent via email, detailing the amount of grant you are eligible for and match funding required. Your letter of offer will be issued to you upon receipt of your planning reference number.
Deadline for Applications – Wednesday 19th April 2023 at 12 noon
Stage 3 – Letter of Offer
A letter of offer will be provided via email, detailing the amount of grant awarded, on provision of the following:
- Architectural drawings of the proposed works submitted to planning and planning reference number provided. Drawings should be shown to scale e.g. 1:100. To ensure clarity of shop front detail, include elevation drawings at a scale of 1:20 and section drawings at 1:10 as appropriate.
Final Deadline for Planning Submission & Reference Number – Wednesday 31st May 2023 at 12 noon
We understand that this process can be lengthy so please allow for time to consult with planning and provide final drawings in order to secure planning approval.
4. The Grant
This grant will encourage new businesses to renovate a vacant property or support existing businesses to diversify their current offer through repurposing an unused area within their premises.
Preference will be given to business with on-street frontage and who are providing a service/business offering currently lacking in the village.
Businesses located or wishing to locate within a Conservation Area must liaise directly with council’s Conservation Officer in order to ensure adherence to Conservation Design Standards and Guidelines.
Successful applicants will receive a grant of up to 80% - maximum £30,000 (ex VAT).
You must demonstrate your contribution of a minimum 20% of the overall costs (ex VAT) has been secured.
In order to receive the maximum grant, your certified paid invoices must equate to at least £37,500 (ex VAT).
- Total project spend - £37,500 – Grant - £30,000 (ex VAT).
- Total project spend - £30,000 – Grant - £24,000 (ex VAT).
- Total project spend - £24,000 – Grant - £19,200 (ex VAT).
Following the Expression of Interest stage, the Council will evaluate the submissions and invite successful applicants to submit an application.
When the Stage 2 - Application Process closes, council will be in a position to confirm the grant funding level that will be offered. This will be based on the quotations submitted at Stage 2.
Funding will be offered on a percentage of the total costs of the work as detailed above. The funding amount will be clearly detailed in the letter of offer.
Please note the grant funding will be for works only excluding VAT. Professional and statutory fees are not funded through this scheme.
It is expected there will be a high demand for the funding and regrettably the Council will only be able to support a proportion of the expressions of interest received. Funding will be assessed and awarded cognisant of the scheme criteria.
5. Who can apply?
The applicant must either be a new business wishing to renovate a vacant property; or an existing business planning to diversify their current offer through repurposing an unused area within their premises.
The applicant must either own the property or have a minimum of 3 years remaining on their Lease.
Please note: Grants will not be awarded to businesses who are closing an existing unit to open in an alternative premises.
If demand exceeds the amount of funding that is available, priority will be given to businesses which provide a different or ‘enhanced’ offer; are likely to create more jobs and footfall; and will enhance the evening economy offering in a village environment.
Properties must be located within the defined commercial centres of a Small Settlement. Please refer to the boundary maps located in Appendix 2.
Eligible applicants will;
- Occupy vacant properties
- Repurpose existing properties or part thereof
- Improve the village centre and complement what is currently on offer
- Demonstrate how repurposing existing businesses will benefit the village centre and the business
- Create a viable and sustainable business investment opportunity
- Demonstrate value for money will be achieved in the cost of the works
- Applications are limited to one per property/business
- A minimum 3 year lease is required
- Be given priority if they provide a ‘unique’ business offer
- Be given priority if the property has on-street frontage
- Enhance the evening economy offering in a village environment.
Award of the grant will be at the council's discretion.
This scheme is to encourage new business types and activities which will improve the perception of the village and increase footfall. Therefore, council will have the ultimate decision in determining the types of business that are eligible for grant funding assistance. This will be assessed on a case by case basis.
6. Who cannot apply?
In general, the following will not be eligible to apply for funding:
- Businesses/premises not situated within the black line boundary of the Small Settlement as demonstrated at Appendix 2.
- Pay day loan shops
- Betting/ gambling shops
- Charity shops
- Pawn shops
- Vape shops
- Adult shops
- Budget/Pound shops
- Temporary shops
- Sports Clubs
- Public Buildings
- Political Organisations
7. What can be funded?
Funding is available for:
- Improvement works to vacant unit(s) which are required to improve the building and allow a business to commence trading.
- Replacement of doors/ windows/flooring, electrical works, plumbing works, minor construction works such as knocking down walls/ roof repairs etc. i.e. any works required to allow a business to commence/continue trading may be considered.
- Internal modifications to vacant properties which includes shop fit-out, subdivision of, internal decorations, flooring, mechanical and electrical works with a view to improving the vacant property (written consent from property owner must be evidenced).
- External facades and signage.
- Maintenance works to include removal of redundant signage, cleaning (power washing), and clearing of debris and repairs of decorative features.
8. What cannot be funded?
In general, the following will not be eligible for funding:
- Projects not situated within the black line boundary of the Small Settlement as demonstrated at Appendix 2.
- Any costs or projects which are clearly another statutory agency’s responsibility or costs that can be claimed back from elsewhere e.g. VAT cannot be funded
- Costs incurred prior to a letter of offer from Council (retrospective funding)
- Professional and statutory fees including planning consents, building control and legal fees or any costs incurred in obtaining quotes in preparation of applications
- Loan Repayments
- Consultancy fees
- Costs towards ongoing running costs/ cash/flow (e.g. electricity, rent, rates, insurance etc.)
- Costs towards banking charges and / or repayment of debt.
- Costs which are not clearly linked to the project
- Costs that are assessed as poor value for money, or have not followed the scheme guidance
- Costs that are already covered by other funding or income sources
- Costs which are deemed excessive by Council
- Cash expenditure will not be eligible for refund from Council
- Salary costs will not be funded
- Alcohol, gratuities, gifts and prizes will not be funded
- Purchase of stock for general trading purposes
- Costs relating to transportation/vehicles
- Council reserves the right to reject late applications
Any significant alterations to the works that were agreed at application stage must be put in writing (email will suffice) and approved by the Council in advance to ensure it is eligible for funding.
Applicants must provide valid quotations, as per the table below, for each element of the works when submitting their application which demonstrates value for money has been sought. A letter of offer will not be issued until all valid quotations have been received.
Council understand that there may be slight variances between quotations and final invoices due to timing and the nature of the proposed works. Invoices must be made available prior to allocation of the grant.
|Expenditure for items/activity||No. of quotations|
|Up to £5,000||3 written quotations from separate suppliers must be provided with your application (e.g. screenshots from supplier website or an email from supplier)|
|£5,001 - £30,000||4 written quotations from separate suppliers must be provided with your application (e.g. screenshots from supplier website or an email from supplier)|
10. Statutory Consents
It is the applicant’s responsibility to secure and provide evidence of all necessary statutory consents and to ensure legal compliance with all approvals. A ‘Certificate of Lawful use or Development’ may be necessary to prove that planning consent is not required if there is any uncertainty.
All statutory and legal consents must be in place before the grant payment can be made.
Please see below contact details for the relevant statutory departments:
Telephone: 028 9244 7300
Telephone: 028 9244 7300
Food premises registration Food Premises Registration Form (where applicable).
If a business receiving grant funding is later held to account for any breaches relating to those improvements, the funding can be held back or if paid then claimed back from the recipient.
Applicants are encouraged to submit all necessary statutory consents as soon as possible.
11. Apply now
To apply for the grant, please complete and return the Stage 1 - Expression of Interest form before Wednesday 1st March 2023 at 12 noon