BUSINESS owners responded with fury after a link to apply for grants from a partnership which helps businesses grow in Hampshire was not posted on its website.

Enterprise M3 launched its Kickstart Tourism and Restart and Recovery Grant schemes on Tuesday, telling applicants that the link to express an interest would be published on its website and social media at midday.

However, frustrated business owners claim the link never appeared on the website, resulting in them missing out on applying because it closed within minutes, with only those who saw it on Twitter able to access it.

Enterprise M3 said it received “overwhelming interest” in the grant schemes, resulting in its website crashing.

However, many said the link was never posted there.

Sean Dillow, a Basingstoke photographer, was hoping to apply and was ready and waiting before 12pm on the website.

He said: “Within six minutes it was closed. I think they were absolutely besieged. I spent yesterday making sure I had everything prepared and then to find out the link wasn’t ever posted to the website, only via a Tweet was very annoying.

"This is people’s livelihoods and it’s awful that if you didn’t pick up on the Tweet you had no chance. It was very unprofessional.

“They said it would be posted on the website and social media. I was sat there waiting on the website. I have wasted all that time and didn’t even have a chance. These sorts of grants could be the difference between small businesses swimming or not. Everyone needed a level playing field to apply.”

Kathryn Brooke also hoped to apply and posted on Twitter to Enterprise M3 saying: “The link never even appeared on your website, as advised, so those of us given that portal were left out entirely.”

Ice and Lime Mobile Bar Hire vented its frustration on Twitter, saying: “Same experience. Was on the site over the launch time – nothing changed. Went to Twitter at 12.03, link lead me to ‘applications closed’. Returned later, started, then got booted out. Thanks very much.”

Bespoke HR had the same problem, Tweeting: “Same experience as everyone else on this thread. Was on the web page before 12 but the link never appeared. How did anyone actually find the link?”

Dermot Smith added: “Limiting access to a grant scheme to those able to access a web page in a particular 15-minute window is unacceptable. A true lottery would even be fairer.”

Enterprise M3 responded to some complaints on Twitter, saying the “demand was absolutely massive”.

It has not yet responded to a request for a comment from the Gazette.