Rural Communities Fund - countryside access scheme guidance

Applications need to be submitted electronically using the link at the bottom of this page.
You will see confirmation of your application and a grant reference number upon submission.

The ‘countryside access’ theme of the Rural Communities Fund provides funding for projects in rural Hampshire to improve or promote countryside access and rights of way including replacing stiles with gates, resurfacing paths and creating leaflets.  

The priorities of the theme are to:

  • Deliver improvements outlined in the area Countryside Access Plans.

  • Provide a long term benefit to the local community and access network based on an existing local need.

Grant criteria and eligibility

In addition to the standard grant criteria and eligibility applications must fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • Projects must be discussed with your local Countryside Access Officer prior to submitting an application.

  • Applications must provide evidence that the project is supported by the Parish/Town Council and landowner (if not the applicant).

  • Projects for practical improvements to rights of way and open access land must provide a specification that complies with the Countryside Service standard specifications for practical projects as a minimum requirement. The 'For all Projects' document should be read in conjunction with any of the individual guides.

  • Projects for interpretation materials must consider the principles set out in the guidance for producing mapboards and leaflets.

  • If work is to be completed by volunteers, the applicant must be confident they have the skills to do the work and that they are appropriately supervised. The applicant must also ensure the volunteers are covered by employers’ liability insurance and public liability insurance.

  • If the work is to be completed by a contractor, quotes must be provided (at least two for projects over £2,000). The applicant will be responsible for ensuring the contractor has adequate employers’ liability insurance and public liability insurance, supervising the work and ensuring that it is carried out to a suitable standard.

  • If carrying out the work as the landowner, the applicant must take out and maintain adequate employers’ liability insurance and public liability insurance.

Funding criteria

We typically fund up to 50% of the total project cost, up to a total grant of £5,000. Contributions greater than 50% of the total project cost may be considered in some circumstances. An additional 25% funding is available from the New Forest National Park Authority for eligible projects in the New Forest.

The remaining contribution can come from any non-Hampshire County Council source such as Parish Council funds, landfill tax or local businesses.

Volunteer labour (excluding Community Service Payback Teams) and in-kind contributions from landowners can be used to contribute towards match funding of the total project cost. The total project cost is made up of expenditure (e.g. materials, tools, contractors) and the value of volunteer or landowner in-kind contributions.

  • Volunteer labour should be calculated at no more than £62.16/person/day (i.e. £8.40/person/hour).Typically no more than 25% of the total project cost can be claimed as volunteer contributions. Use the volunteer labour calculator to help work out volunteer contributions for your project

  • Landowners may offer to complete the work themselves (e.g. resurfacing, installing gates), using their own staff and equipment. If they are not charging for this service as a contractor, it can be deemed an in-kind contribution.  No more than 50% of the total project cost can be claimed as an in-kind contribution (a breakdown of the contribution must be provided on the application form)

Who can apply
  • Parish or Town Councils (see note below)

  • Landowners

  • Other organisations (e.g. charities, volunteer/community groups)

Note: If applying as the Parish or Town Council, you will be carrying out improvements under your own legal powers to maintain rights of way (Highways Act 1980) – these powers apply to footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways but do not apply to byways open to all traffic. Powers to provide benches on or at the side of public paths are given under the Parish Councils Act 1957.

What we can fund

Funding is provided specifically for projects to improve or promote countryside access. Priority is given to practical improvements to rights of way and open access land. Typical projects include:

  • Path Surfacing - provide a better surface by improving drainage, clearing vegetation and applying new surface material

  • Replacing stiles with gates - improve access for disabled users, those with limited mobility and users with pushchairs and young children

  • Installation of a boardwalk or bridge - provide access across a boggy area, or a crossing over a ditch or stream

  • Benches – enhance your local paths with the addition of a bench

  • Mapboards and leaflets – encourage access to the countryside with a professionally designed leaflet or mapboard showing rights of way, access areas and circular routes for walking, cycling and riding in your local area. You can also include information on local history and wildlife, as well as details of local pubs, cafes, shops and visitor attractions

What we can’t fund
  • Works/projects that are primarily for nature conservation, the main element of the project must be for access improvements

  • Fencing projects or works on recreation grounds, unless the land is also recorded as a right of way or open access land

  • The repair or replacement of stiles, although applications to replace stiles with gates are strongly supported

  • Work to paved/tarmaced paths

  • Picnic benches

  • Notice boards

  • Dog bins

  • Research

Contact the Rural Communities Fund - countryside access

Before submitting an application you must discuss your project with your local Countryside Access Officer. Contact us now and we will get in touch to advise on the eligibility of your project and arrange a site visit (where appropriate).  When advised follow the application guidance to complete your online application form and Supporting Information Form.

Contact us:

Application guidance

Ensure you answer all the questions fully and provide all the information requested to avoid any delays in processing your application.

NOTE: To apply electronically, you must have a valid email address.

Questions 1–6: Contact details for your organisation

This is the main organisation that would be responsible for the grant.

Question 1: Department/Grant Programme

Department: Select - Culture, Communities and Business Services (CCBS)

Grant Stream: Select: - Rural Communities Fund

Questions 7–10: Your project

Question 7: Title of project or service

Try to be as brief as possible, for example the name of your project.

Question 8a: Summary of your project

Use this section to briefly describe:

  • What you would like to do - what is the work, why do you want to do it, what is the current condition of the area? Provide photos of the area in the Supporting Information Form.

  • Where the project will take place - include the Parish and also state for example whether it is on a right of way (if so provide a path number), access land, a common or village green. Provide a map of the area in the Supporting Information Form.

Also use this section to state the landowners name, postal address, and email address. Written consent from the landowner to undertake the work is required and must be supplied in the Supporting Information Form.

If applying as the landowner, state whether you have the support of the local Parish or Town Council. Provide written evidence of this in the Supporting Information Form.

Question 8b: Details of your project

Give full details of the project and tell us what the funding will pay for. This should include:

  • Who will carry out the work? e.g.

    • Contractors – if using a contactor provide quotes and a specification in the Supporting Information Form. For works over £2,000 at least two quotes must be provided.

    • Volunteers – if using volunteers provide an estimated number of volunteer hours (this time can be used as part of your match funding – see question 12).

    • Landowner – if the landowner will be using their own staff and equipment, this can count as an in-kind contribution and can be used as part of your match funding. Provide a breakdown of the contribution and specification in the Supporting Information Form.

  • Is a temporary path closure required (your local Countryside Access Officer will be able to advise on this)? Note: if a temporary path closure is required an additional £160 must be added to the cost of the project and this should be listed under question 12.

  • If works are to be undertaken on a permissive path list all the users that will be able to use the route (e.g. walkers, cyclists, horse riders, motorised users). Note: a permissive path is not an official right of way but the landowner has given consent for the public to use it.

  • If installing kissing gates, have you considered a large mobility gate with RADLOCK latch system? Explain your decision and consult with your local Countryside Access Officer for advice if necessary.

  • If you are applying for under £1,000 tell us where you expect the remaining funds (match funding) will come from. This may include volunteer labour and landowner in-kind contributions (see question 12).

Question 8c: Project outcomes

This is an opportunity to describe how the community will benefit from the proposed work (e.g. will it help them access community services or the countryside, does it provide a safe route to school etc.).

As part of the section you must also explain which Countryside Access Plan policy area your project covers and how it addresses the actions within this.

Question 8d: How you involved service users in the development of your project

Use this section to tell us:

  • What evidence you have from local people that your project is supported (e.g. parish council meetings, wider consultation with the local community). Provide evidence of this support in the Supporting Information Form (e.g. an extract from meeting minutes, letter of support etc.).

  • Does it tie in with any local plans or strategies?

  • How do you intend to keep the community informed about the project (e.g. parish notice boards, temporary signs on site, parish newsletter etc.)?

Question 9: Project dates and frequency

Give the estimated start and finish dates of your project and detail if it is recurring or one-off (e.g. improvement works). Note: we do not fund retrospectively so the start date for your project must be in the future.

Questions 11–15: Finance

Question 11: Financial reserves

The reserves referred to in this section are free reserves i.e. funds your organisation holds that are not required for the running of your organisation during this financial year i.e. savings.

Organisations will not normally be eligible for grants where they hold unallocated reserves in excess of one year’s running costs. In cases where reserves held exceed this level a reduced level of funding may be agreed. All charitable organisations are expected to have an agreed reserves policy that addresses their financial risk.

Question 12: Cost detail

List the full costs of your project (excluding VAT), make sure to include:

  • The cost of a temporary path closure if required (£160)

  • Landowner in-kind contributions – this may form no more than 50% of the total project cost

  • Estimated volunteer hours – this may form no more then 25% of the total project cost, to be calculated at no more than £62.16/person/day (i.e. £8.40/person/hour). Use the volunteer labour calculator to help work out your costs.

Question 13: Income

Provide information on all sources of funding for your project and indicate whether it has been confirmed or if not confirmed the date the decision is expected.

  • If your project includes landowner contributions enter the value of the contribution in the ‘In kind support received’ row (as calculated for question 12).

  • If your project includes volunteer labour enter the value of the contribution in the ‘Other income’ row (as calculated for question 12).

  • If you are applying for a project that will take place in the New Forest National Park, the National Park Authority will usually provide a contribution of 25% of total project costs towards successful applications to the Rural Communities Fund - countryside access. Enter the amount of this 25% contribution in the ‘Other income’ row.

NOTE: if applying for less than £1,000, you are not required to complete this question, instead detail your match funding as part of question 8b, including any volunteer labour and landowner in-kind contributions.

Question 14a: Project finance summary

A summary of your project income and expenditure will be automatically calculated using your responses to questions 12 and 13 (online application form only). You will need to enter the amount of grant funding you are requesting, which must not be higher than the calculated shortfall.

Question 14b: How the project will be sustainable

Confirm how you plan to manage the interests of the project in the longer term, including who will be responsible for the maintenance of any structures (e.g. gates, bridges, boardwalks, mapboards etc.).

Questions 16–20: General questions and documentation

Question 18: Documentation

Leave this section blank. The Supporting Information Form must be submitted by email to

Question 20: Equalities

Address a-d as best you can. We are not looking for comprehensive policies – just some bullet points, examples of things which may be relevant to include are:

  • We have an equality and diversity policy. We ensure our staff receive equalities and diversity training. We actively encourage and support all sectors of the community including those having protected characteristics to take part in this project.

  • We have an open and transparent recruitment and promotion policy.

  • The organisation’s culture fully embraces diversity.

  • Our constitution/ this project focuses on fostering good community relations across all sectors of society by...

  • This project will advance equality of opportunity for everyone by…

Supporting documentation

Add all the required documents to the Supporting Information Form and email to clearly stating your application reference number (this will be provided after you have submitted your online application form).   

  • Photos of the project area (see Q8a)

  • Location map (see Q8a)

  • Landowner consent (see Q8a)

  • Parish/Town Council consent (see Q8a)

  • Quotations (see Q8b)

  • Specification (see Q8b)

  • Evidence of local support (see Q8d)

Download the Supporting Information Form

Monitoring Information

This information will help us to plan and fund areas of work where there are significant gaps and needs. If you need to collect this information from your staff or service users then it is important that you give them a choice as to whether they choose to give this personal information.

Please read our terms and conditions before applying.

Applications should be submitted electronically. If you are unable to do this please complete the pdf form below and send it to the relevant grant department.

Rural communities fund countryside access form for grants £1000 and under