Council initiatives to support local businesses

Our economic development service, manages or works with partners to deliver initiatives in support local businesses and the local economy.

These initiatives are listed here and provide information and links to see how your business can benefit.

New initiatives and opportunities to work with the council and its partners will be publicised on our eNewsletter.

On this page:

The New Forest Shop Doctor Programme

Following on from the New Forest High Streets and Village Centres Conference, we have developed a series of initiatives to support our New Forest high streets.

The New Forest Shop Doctor programme aims to improve the customer experience in identified town centres throughout the New Forest through a series of Shop Doctor (Mystery Shopper) visits.

The programme will prioritise local independent retail and hospitality businesses enabling those participating to identify individual areas of strength and weakness, resulting in a higher quality standard of retail and hospitality provision. This in turn will boost confidence and provide a source of publicity.

The New Forest Shop Doctor project will be undertaken during February 2022 in Fordingbridge, Lymington & Pennington, Ringwood & Totton.

More information on The New Forest Shop Doctor Programme.

The Rebel Business School

The Rebel Business School ran every day from Monday 18 October to Friday 22 October and was for anyone with a business idea who is struggling to get started, or is currently running a business and needed help.

The Rebel approach is firmly about starting businesses for free, or with very little money, and always without debt.

More information

New Forest High Streets and Village Centres Conference

On Wednesday 20 October 2021, this free online conference brought together businesses and stakeholders from across the district. It provided a toolkit to help drive footfall and encourage shoppers to stay longer and spend more in our town and village centres.

More information on the New Forest High Streets and Village Centres Conference.

Broadband Infrastructure

We are supporting The Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme, managed by Hampshire County Council.

This initiative is working to deliver superfast (24Mbs) to 97.4% of premises across Hampshire by the end of 2020. It is estimated that this programme will reach 95-96% of New Forest premises in this timeframe.

Based upon the above figures alone, it is estimated that there will be several hundred New Forest premises which fall outside of funded provision at the end of this programme. 

If this applies to your property there are alternative routes which you can take to enable superfast speeds:

If you are unsure of whether your property has been or will be included in any of the network upgrades, you can check on the Hampshire Superfast Broadband website

If you are not currently receiving superfast speeds, you can register for information about future availability on the same website. When network upgrades impacting your premises take place, you will be notified by email.  

The Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

Gigabit-capable broadband connections offer the fastest and most reliable speeds available.

Homes and businesses in rural areas of the UK may be eligible for funding towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband (up to 1000Mbs) when part of a group scheme known as a 'Community Fibre Partnership'.

Use the following guide to see if your business can benefit from The Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme:

The Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme is a government funded programme which provides funding to rural communities with inadequate broadband provision. The programme will deliver gigabit capable networks with full fibre to the premises.

What is meant by 'rural'?

There are specific definitions of rural communities which the Department of Media, Culture and Support apply in administering this scheme.

The easiest way to check whether your premises is classified as rural is using the online checker on the Gigabit Voucher website.  

This will also indicate which suppliers which are delivering the scheme in your area which will be important when you reach the stage of seeking quotations.

How much funding is available?

The standard Government Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme will allocate vouchers to the value of £1500 per residential premises and £3500 for each small to medium-sized business (SME); so, the more businesses included in your 'Community Fibre Partnership', even those working at home, will increase the value and scope of your project.

However, there is also currently a top-up scheme available through Hampshire County Council which doubles the residential award to £3000 per premises. Any funds required beyond this will need to be provided by the benefiting community for instance, from 'private sector' funding rather than from another public funding source.

The Hampshire top-up scheme is limited to £1m fund across Hampshire and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

What is defined as 'community'?

The minimum requirement to qualify for this scheme is two premises, however owing to the work involved in preparing an application, it is likely that larger bids will be more cost effective to develop.

Remember, the more businesses included in your 'Community Fibre Partnership', even those working at home, will increase the value and scope of your project.

There is however no specific size or scale that your project needs to be as this will be dependent upon the geographic layout of your community and relation of proposed premises to existing network infrastructure.

It is suggested that a broad community approach is adopted including involvement of the parish council where possible.

The most important element of establishing a bid will be to organise a group of individuals who are willing and able to develop the bid. Ideally this will involve a person with a level of technical knowledge and/or an individual who is able to help work up and establish the business case.

What is the process for applying?

There are several technical steps you'll need to work through to develop your project including identifying the scope of your programme.

There is a community led broadband schemes page on GOV.UK which sets out the steps which you will need to consider before a bid can successfully be completed.

How we can help

It's recognised that this can be an involved process and therefore you may need support in developing your local scheme.

Previously, we have helped communities to with publicity material for distribution amongst their community.

In one example we helped with the printing of information and pledge forms as these facilities were not immediately available to the community.  

We can also signpost you to other local communities which have successfully been through this process to share their experiences with you. Whilst their individual scheme may be different to your own, it is likely to be useful from a perspective of identifying structures to adopt and barriers to overcome. 

New Forest Rural SME Grant Scheme

The New Forest Rural SME Grant Scheme was setup to support the Solent economy by providing grants to rural small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) with potential for economic growth, leveraging in private sector investment, creating or protecting jobs and assisting the rural sector.

This scheme is now closed to new applications and the fund is fully allocated. 

Film:New Forest

A million possibilities; one unique place. The New Forest is a beautiful part of the country and is well known as a popular tourism destination, but the area is not in fact new, isn't all forest, and many will be surprised at the variety of filming possibilities and locations available here.

The district is famed for its untouched woodland and far-reaching heathland, but alongside this is settings of vast coastline, historic buildings, flowing rivers, picturesque roads, industrial sites, bygone villages, free-roaming animals, and much more.

In addition to the primary aim of encouraging spend on local goods and services this project, developed by us and our partners, seeks to deliver the following benefits:

  • opportunities for owners of local premises to offer their facilities for filming locations
  • a network of businesses within this sector to share best practice and opportunities
  • engagement with local students to provide career opportunities and improve skills
  • development of best practice to ensure that filming which takes place does not negatively impact the natural landscape

For further details, see our dedicated Film: New Forest project website

Helping Local Business Grow

Our Economic Development Strategy (2018 to 2023) identified five key areas for the authority

  • developing a Skilled Workforce
  • increasing Growth and Productivity
  • developing Local Infrastructure
  • facilitating Vibrant Towns and Villages

 The full document can be found at

As part of this initiative, we produce the 'Helping Local Business Grow' enews and social media updates to ensure your business is kept informed of local and national business support initiatives.

The New Forest LEADER Programme

We and our partners on the New Forest LEADER Local Action Group, have successfully bid for three successive EU Rural Development LEADER Programmes.

The programmes ran from 2002-2008, 2008-2014 and 2015 - 2020 and provided grants totalling over £3.6 million to help develop rural businesses, assist community groups and support the wider rural economy.

The New Forest LEADER Programme has been particularly successful in supporting small rural-based businesses, that previously had low levels of engagement with formal business support initiatives and often little or no prior experience of applying for government funding.

The New Forest LEADER Programme is now closed to applications.

As the UK has now left the EU, there will be no further LEADER Programmes.


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