York & North Yorkshire

Heck's 'Sausage World' on hold after EU funding blow

Heck Sausages Image copyright Heck
Image caption Heck decided to open a visitor centre after so many people asked to have a look at its factory

Plans for a "Sausage World" attraction in North Yorkshire have been put on hold after funding from the European Union was refused.

The family-run firm Heck had planned to expand its base in Kirklington, near Bedale, to create a visitor centre.

It was told it could get EU funding after getting planning permission, but has now been informed the grant has already been spent.

Defra said there were no guarantees and the grant process was "competitive".

Hambleton District Council passed the scheme on Monday but Heck will now have to find funding from elsewhere.

Head of sales Jamie Keeble said it would aim to increase its exports.

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He said: "After losing out on EU funding because of Brexit we will have to fund our sausage world out of cash, so are ramping up our international export.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The firm is based in Bedale, North Yorkshire

"We are also launching into Ireland and have created a special sausage 'Feck' to celebrate the launch."

The name is a reference to the mild swear word made popular outside of Ireland by the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted.

The firm is set to export its vegan sausages to Australia, where it has secured a deal to get its products into 800 shops.

Heck said it had approached the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) about accessing the EU money, and was told it would qualify once planning permission was granted.

Once plans were secured, it went back to the RPA to be told the grant had already been spent.

A spokesman for the RPA - which is part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - said: "As with all who apply, we made clear our schemes are very competitive and meeting the eligibility criteria alone doesn't guarantee a project will gain funding."

'Tremendous support'

Heck has now opened its headquarters up to local food entrepreneurs who may face similar hurdles.

"Brexit is creating huge uncertainty and we don't believe there will be any investment from central government to help start-ups," Mr Keeble said.

"We had tremendous support at the beginning but that has all disappeared down the Brexit sinkhole."

Heck launched five years again with the Keeble family - parents Andrew, Debbie and children Jamie, Roddy and Ellie.

The family-turned-producers have created a food company that has gone from zero to £30m in six years.

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