A Staffordshire-based business has achieved a national accolade after backing from county-wide growth programme...

An equestrian business that is located in Staffordshire, which was supported by a County Council growth programme, has been recognised nationally as one of the best in its field.

Court Bank Farm is a livery that boasts a long waiting list of customers from across the Midlands, who want to accommodate their horses at the Cannock Wood site. Husband and wife team, Andy and Viv Newton set up the business six years ago, growing from Viv’s passion and knowledge of the equestrian world.

The company has recently been awarded first place at the British Horse Federation Awards, in the DIY Livery Yard of the Year category.

The couple were supported by a grant of just under £40,000, via the Staffordshire LEADER programme, which is administered by the County Council from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The scheme provides grant-funding of between £2,500 and £100,000  to businesses with ambitious growth plans that will stimulate the rural economy.

When Andy and Viv took over the old livery premises the site needed a complete overhaul.  Over the past few years work has been carried out to bring the livery up to nationally-recognised industry standards. The couple also run another business on-site – UKAA, which sells high quality architectural antiques

With support from the LEADER programme, combined with the couple’s own investment, Court Bank Farm has been able to build a livery with state-of-the-art facilities including a floodlit all-weather menage (riding area), with CCTV operation throughout, barns, individual tack rooms, automatic water drinkers and miles of off-road trails. The livery is located next to both Cannock Chase and Gentleshaw Common, which also offer extensive networks of bridleways.

Andy Newton said:

“It has taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are now and we are still investing in the business. We needed a complete overhaul of the site in order to provide the facilities we have in place today and the LEADER funding has helped us to do that.

“We are a DIY livery meaning people keep their horses here and look after them themselves. Some full livery yards don’t have the facilities we do and so we have a long waiting list. We have around four miles of grassland roadways, three areas of woodland and are in close proximity to Cannock Chase and Gentleshaw Common.

“We pride ourselves in how the livery is run, from the facilities we have to our effective land management. We also consider ongoing inspections by the British Horse Society as an important part of the industry to ensure high standards are maintained.

“Viv and I were thrilled to receive the best DIY livery award, particularly with the quality of the other finalists who should be commended. We hope that our business contributes to this area’s reputation as a great location for outdoor recreation across the Midlands and beyond.”

LEADER aims to support projects which will create jobs or help rural businesses grow; with grants available to support farm productivity, micro and small enterprise, farm diversification, tourism, rural services, heritage and forestry schemes.

Staffordshire County Council’s Economic Growth Leader, Mark Winnington commented:

“It is great to see Andy and Viv’s business doing so well and to be considered the best in its field nationally by industry experts is excellent.

“Court Bank Farm is a superb example of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication and ambition. We’re pleased that through the LEADER programme the business has grown both in terms of its first-class facilities and national reputation.

“LEADER has made a real difference to small businesses across the county which play a vital part in rural communities and our ongoing economic growth. We now want to make sure the remaining money is fully utilised. People can find out more by visiting the programme website or contacting a member of the team.”

Other approved LEADER schemes include a butchery training centre, a fledgling company producing cured meats, a restaurant’s fine dining kitchen, a new mill to process alpaca fleeces and support for a business to purchase specialist equipment to produce real fruit ice cream.

LEADER is part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.