Purpose of the fund

The Rural Investment Fund assists new businesses located within a Small Settlement* wishing to renovate a vacant property; or an existing business planning to diversify their current offer through repurposing an unused area within their 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, Royal Hillsborough, Maghaberry, Milltown, Moira and Moneyreagh.

The boundaries of these areas can be viewed on this link.
The aims and objectives of the Rural Investment Fund are to:

  1.  Improve the commercial offer in the village centre of Small Settlements by reducing the current vacancy rates and attracting new businesses.
  2. Enhance the environment and raise the image of the village.
  3. Decrease the number of vacant units in the village centre by offering financial assistance to::
    • reopen a business
    • repurpose an unused area in an existing business premises
    • new businesses wishing to renovate a vacant property

Preference will be given to businesses with on-street frontage and which 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 our Conservation Officer in order to ensure adherence to Conservation Design Standards and Guidelines. They can be emailed at  

Allocation of funding

Successful applicants will receive a grant of up to 80% - maximum £30,000 (ex VAT) and must be able to demonstrate that their contribution of a minimum 20% of the overall costs (ex VAT) has been secured.

Funding is allocated based on business footprint of the property, or area within the property that will be renovated. This measurement does not include storerooms, kitchens or bathrooms.

  • Footprint of less than 100 Square Metres - up to £10,000 (ex VAT)
  • Footprint of between 100 and 150 Square Metres - up to £20,000 (ex VAT)
  • Footprint of 151 Square Metres or more - up to £30,000 (ex VAT)

Should this grant scheme be oversubscribed, the amount awarded may have to be reduced to ensure the maximum number of businesses benefit from this initiative.

Fund criteria

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. 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 or are likely to create more jobs and footfall. 

Properties must be classed as located a small settlement. View the boundary maps on this link.

Eligible applicants will:

  • occupy vacant properties or repurpose existing properties or part thereof
  • 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
  • own the property or have a minimum lease of 3 years
  • applications are limited to one per property/business
  • businesses will be given priority if they provide a ‘unique’ business offer
  • businesses will be given priority if the property has on-street frontage

Applications will benefit from demonstrating how their investment will Improve the village centre and complement what is currently on offer.

Award of the grant will be at our discretion. This scheme is to encourage new business types and activities which will improve the quality of life for local residents, enhance the perception of the village and increase footfall.

Therefore, we 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.

What businesses are not eligible?

In general, the following will not be eligible to apply for funding:

  • businesses/premises situated outside of the black line boundary of the small settlements as demonstrated in these maps.
  • 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
  • multiples

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

What cannot be funded?    

In general, the following will not be eligible for funding:

  • projects not situated within a small settlement as shown on this link
  • 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 us (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 us
  • cash expenditure will not be eligible for refund from us
  • 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

We reserve the right to reject late applications.

Please note: any significant alterations to the works that were agreed at application stage must be put in writing (email will suffice) and approved by us in advance to ensure it is eligible for funding.