A grant scheme worth £60,000 is being launched to help farming and rural businesses offer affordable accommodation along the North Downs Way.
The grant is being offered to businesses in the region who can offer low-cost and accessible places to stay along the North Downs Way.
The scheme is a collaboration between North Downs Way National Trail, Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB) Unit and Kent County Council.
The accommodation must be attractive to walkers, hikers, and riders, or those looking for a more back to nature overnight stay.
The grant aims to support new and low-cost accommodation to attract more walkers and cyclists to the area of outstanding natural beauty, who are looking for a cheap but comfortable place to stay on their journey.
Grants of between £3,000 to £30,000 are available to relevant businesses such as landowners and existing hospitality offerings, on or within 5km, by foot or cycle, of the North Downs Way in Kent.
Suitable accommodation must have a low or positive impact on the landscape. Grant organisers are also keen to receive applications for unique accommodation, unlike anything else in the area.
Examples include camping pods and bothies, existing structure conversions such as barns, and all season ‘nearly wild’ camping with basic services including toilets and showers.
To help create a more inclusive experience, planned accommodation must be priced at a maximum of £40 per night and offer both single night and single person stays.
Applicants are encouraged to make provision for guests with mobility, hearing, and sight loss. And to attract walkers and riders rather than visitors in cars, provision of bike storage and/or a drying room is also encouraged.
Catherine Bradley, European & Project Development Manager for Kent Downs AONB, explains the benefits of the scheme for businesses and guests.
“We believe everyone should be able to experience all that the beautiful North Downs Way has to offer, regardless of age, ability or affordability," she said.
"The scheme provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses to create something not only new and unusual but also accessible for a range of different guests – some of whom might not have considered this type of trip before.
“Applicants may have questions about the scheme or application process, and I would urge them to get in touch.
“We’re really looking forward to helping applicants expand their businesses in a way that attracts more visitors and enhances the area.”
The closing date for applications is 31 August, and projects must be completed by 31st January 2023 and ready to launch the same year.