LEADER is a bottom-up, community-led approach to delivering rural and community development through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

LEADER is an increasingly important component of policy in promoting sustainable development of rural areas by addressing economic, social and environmental concerns.

The term LEADER comes from a French acronym standing for ‘Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale’, meaning ‘Links between the rural economy and development actions’.

In practice, it is a method of delivering rural development in rural communities where local people have the opportunity to take funding decisions at a local level in line with their local development strategy, a plan that identifies priority funding for LEADER areas.

Experience has shown that LEADER can make a real difference to the daily lives of people in rural areas. LEADER encourages rural territories to explore new ways to become or to remain competitive, to make the most of their assets and to overcome the challenges they may face.

LEADER contributes towards improving the quality of life in rural areas recognising that being competitive in the production of food, having an attractive environment and creating job opportunities for local populations are mutually supportive aspects of rural life, requiring specific skills, appropriate technologies and services that need to be tackled as a coherent package and with tailored policy measures.

The LEADER approach is seen by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who manage the RDPE, as an important way of addressing rural needs and is based on a community led, bottom-up approach to rural development.

It is important to note that as part of mainstream RDPE, the current LEADER programme has a stronger economic emphasis than previously.