SMALL businesses in the rural parts of southern Test Valley and New Forest can still apply for grants from the EU's LEADER programme.

The fund, administered by the New Forest Local Action Group, works in partnership with Test Valley Borough Council and the New Forest District Council, and can support investments to help businesses to expand.

The funding is aimed at helping rural-based businesses to improve productivity or diversify. It also offers grants to enable small enterprises to start up and grow. Those successful in applying could receive grants ranging from £5,000 and £75,000, but have to provide their own match funding of 60 per cent of the total cost of the project.

Business to have already benefitted from a grant, include a plant nursery which received £45,000 towards a purpose-built workshop to create life-sized topiary structures, a local food producer who received £12,000 to invest in a large capacity cold-store, and a grant awarded to a project which will fund the conversion of redundant buildings into holiday accommodation.

Economic development and tourism portfolio holder, David Drew, said: "Local firms are already benefitting from LEADER but time is rapidly running out. Any small to medium sized businesses in southern Test Valley considering capital investment should contact New Forest LEADER."

The closing date is June 19. To apply, visit