INDIVIDUALS are being encouraged to invest in the development of a high-speed rural broadband scheme in west Oxfordshire.

The Cotswold Broadband Group is looking to raise £5m from the scheme, with the aim of rolling out fibreoptic broadband services to 9,000 homes and businesses in an area around Chipping Norton.

The group hopes the cash can be combined with a grant of £1.8m, which it has applied for from the Government’s Rural Community Broadband fund helping difficult to reach homes in rural areas.

Once approved, plans are in place to lay the cable by April next year with the service launching in June.

Chief executive Hugo Pickering said: “This is an opportunity for people to get involved in their local broadband service.

“The prospectus has been launched and we are open for business now.”

Investors have to plough in a minimum of £10,000 into the Rural Broadband Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) Fund which is the first of its type in the country.

In return, investment manager Enterprise Private Equity (EPE) offers a return on investment of 21 per cent in four years once a 30 per cent income tax relief has been taken into account.

That assumes the company will be sold to a buyer such as a pension fund or similar financial institution at that time.

EPE director of enterprise Martin Sherwood said: “With the major telecoms providers focusing on the highly populated urban areas of the UK, this has left a sizable number of businesses and individuals with limited access to the internet and the upgrades that deliver faster access to existing and new services.

“We believe there is very high demand from businesses and individuals who would be very happy to pay for these services given the opportunity to buy into them.”

The fund is looking to raise a total of £10m by the time it closes on January 31 as it also includes two other broadband schemes in Devon and Dorset.

Chipping Norton will be covered by superfast broadband from BT next year and the project is campaigning to ensure the whole area around it is also covered.

An announcement about the level of funding the Cotswold Broadband Group will receive from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ rural broadband fund will be revealed in the next four weeks.

To apply for an investment prospectus, see