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£3.5m boost for county food and drink sector

The tourism and food and drink sector in Shropshire is to benefit from a new £3.5 million funding pot. 

The latest round of Growth Programme funding from Rural Development Programme England, administered by DEFRA, will see two pots of funding available. 

There is £1m to develop visitor attractions, tourist information, and recreational and small scale infrastructure projects in rural areas, including holiday accommodation. 

And £2.5m to grow and enhance the food and drink sector by supporting micro, small and medium-sized food producers and processors looking to expand and create jobs.  

Tourism in the Marches, which takes in the Wye Valley and Shropshire Hills and heritage assets such as Ironbridge Gorge, a World Heritage Site, generates around £856 million into the economy every year and employs 33,000 people. 

Agriculture and food production has already been identified as highly important to the local economy in the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) strategy. 

Roger Phillips, Chairman of the Marches ESIF Committee (pictured) said: “Tourism and food manufacturing are both very important sectors in the Marches that are thriving. Growth in both these industries will help us build a sustainable economy. 

“The region currently has a diverse offer to visitors and the new funding will enable us to develop an improved year round offer to them as well as enhance the range and quality of rural tourism products. 

“Investment in the food and drink sector through infrastructure, equipment and machinery will create jobs and support supply chains that will in turn boost our economy.” 

An information event on the funding will be held at Marches Growth Hub Shropshire in Shrewsbury on February 28. For more information or to book, visit www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk

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