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An initiative to boost rural growth could create 500 jobs in Warwickshire following government approval.

More than 3,000 jobs and 700 businesses are expected to be created nationally by the £15m project to support rural businesses and boost the rural economy, announced by environment secretary Caroline Spelman.

A pilot Rural Growth Network will be established in Coventry and Warwickshire with a innovation and technology centre development established at Stoneleigh.

There will also be enterprise centres at Shipston-on-Stour and Atherstone to offer \\\"rural-friendly\\\" enterprise support.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) bid was led by Warwickshire County Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Agricultural Society for England (RASE).

It will enable the showcasing of low-carbon and environmental technologies to encourage their adoption by rural businesses.

As part of the pilot Rural Growth Network, particular emphasis will also be placed on overcoming barriers to enterprise frequently faced by women-led rural businesses, the LEP said.

\\\"This is a real recognition by the government that businesses in rural areas do face some barriers to enterprise and growth that this work will seek to tackle,\\\" said Louise Bennett, chief executive of the chamber and author of the bid.

\\\"The focus of the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network will be to make accessible to rural enterprises good quality enterprise support whilst linking many of our rural businesses to the developing low-carbon and environmental technologies that sit within our great universities.\\\"

RASE chief executive Denis Chamberlain added: \\\"I am delighted to hear that the government is supportive of some exciting new developments at Stoneleigh Park, including the creation of a new innovation and technology centre linked to a number of smaller enterprise centres.

\\\"Stoneleigh Park sits at the heart of the UK\\\'s rural and agricultural sector and this announcement is just one part of a much wider programme of development at Stoneleigh, which already houses more than 60 businesses and continues to host some large-scale agricultural and other events.\\\"

Caroline Spelman added: \\\"Our £15m investment will create thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses, boosting the rural economy and supporting thriving local communities. Altogether we\\\'re spending £165m to support economic growth in rural England, and shows once again that we are firmly on the side of rural communities.\\\"

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