RURAL communities and small businesses in Dorset are set to benefit from a government grant.

The Chalk & Cheese Local Action Group has been allocated funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to apply for a share of Europe’s LEADER programme.

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development has set aside £140m for LEADER groups across the country.

LEADER is a programme that allows local people to make decisions about where money should be spent.

The Chalk & Cheese Local Action Group has spent the past seven years distributing more than £2m to projects across West Dorset, Purbeck and Portland.

In 2010, the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum applied to the Local Action Group for almost £100,000 to create a new museum for the historic ball clay industry.

The museum opened in May 2013 and quickly received the HRA Railway Interpretation award.

Sarah East, chairman of the Local Action Group Executive, said: “This is a great opportunity for the people of West Dorset, Purbeck and Portland to come together to apply for a share of the fund and continue the Local Action Group’s successful work to 2020.”

Individuals and organisations will have the opportunity to put their suggestions forward at consultation meetings to be held in March.

The first meeting will take place at Whitchurch Canon-icorum Village Hall on Thursday March 6 at 6pm.

For more information and details of other meetings to take place, please contact Sarah Harbige on 01305 228699 or email s.e.harbige@dorsetcc.