The Vital Villages Grants Programme was established by the Countryside Agency as a web based project database in 2001 and ran until 31 March 2005.
The Countryside Agency awarded grants to small rural communities to encourage them to:
- identify and act to meet local needs;
- help meet their needs for local service provisions in ways that suit local circumstances;
- enable small rural communities, and wider partnerships to implement local solutions to meet their local transport needs.
The programme itself encompassed four major schemes or project types as follows:
Parish Plan Grant scheme (PPG): This scheme facilitated the funding and development of Parish Plans produced by and for communities which outlined both immediate and long-term social, economic, or environmental priorities of importance to these communities. The Department encouraged communities to involve partners in the process of developing a plan and to in turn use the information gathered to influence the plans and policies of others.
Community Service Grants (CSG): The CSG Scheme gave decision-making authority to respective communities to identify what type of service was most needed in the community, thereby leading to a wide array of projects being funded under the Scheme from club and leisure facilities to provision of childcare and IT-based learning facilities. Commercial businesses and individuals were eligible for the grants. A typical output from this scheme included village shops including community enterprises and enhanced services for existing shops.
Rural Transport Partnership Projects (RTPG): The RTP scheme, established in April 2001, was a grant scheme administered by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Its central aim was to assist largely community-based initiatives seeking to improve transport in their local area and where possible helping to promote social inclusion and tackle the problems of rural isolation. Anyone was eligible to apply for this grant, providing it could be proven that the local community would benefit from the project and that the aims of the transport scheme met the relevant criteria under the RTP scheme.