Friday, 21 August 2015 08:06

Plan 'lacks ambition' on broadband

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Plan 'lacks ambition' on broadband

THE government's Rural Productivity Plan falls short when it comes to broadband, say rural business leaders.

The 10-point plan - which aims to help "unleash" the potential of rural areas - was launched by the government on Thursday (20 August).

The plan says the government is committed to delivering superfast broadband of at least 24Mbps to 95% of UK households and businesses by 2017.

Decisions on further broadband rollout will be taken in the Spending Review in November, it says.

The plan says: "By the end of 2015, access to standard broadband will be available to anyone unable to get a service of at least 2Mbps, through the option of satellite broadband."

The Country Land and Business Association acknowledged that the plan would help the countryside to thrive – but it warned that better broadband was still needed.

CLA policy director Christopher Price said: "The challenge of delivering improved productivity in our rural areas is different to that in our towns and cities.

"We welcome the specific focus on rural areas in this announcement."

Mr Price said: "Ministers rightly recognise that mobile and broadband coverage is vital to creating growth and jobs in rural areas.

But he added: "Unfortunately this latest plan still falls short of giving rural communities and businesses the confidence that the universal service they are crying out for will be achieved."

Mr Price said the CLA also recognised the need for more homes in the countryside that first time buyers could afford, saying there was a "big opportunity: to improve on this.

"A pragmatic planning framework is critical to delivering this.

"We have long argued for greater flexibility in the use of rural exception sites and we will continue to work with government to make this happen.

"However the plan lacks action on the important priority of increasing availability of homes to rent in rural areas.

"We welcome the government's commitment to permitted development rights to unlock investment in homes and businesses.

"This must now be supported by local councils to ensure it delivers."

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