YP Comment: The rural economy in a digital age

Horses and their riders make their way on to the gallops at Middleha where internet and mobile phone coverage is poor.
Horses and their riders make their way on to the gallops at Middleha where internet and mobile phone coverage is poor.
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THAT North Yorkshire residents without access to superfast broadband can now apply for a £450 voucher to install a satellite alternative is welcome news on two fronts.

First, it provides salvation to those remote homes and businesses which are still languishing in the technological dark ages. Second, it is a tacit admission that the Government, and others, have under-estimated the importance of the rural economy, and how no business can operate today without the internet.

However, while this scheme is aimed at those properties which will not receive up-to-date broadband when coverage is rolled out to 95 per cent of North Yorkshire, this is only a short-term fix – the future sustainability of many rural communities depends on their ability to attract new families and they simply won’t be able to do so without the guarantee of 21st century communications.

The days of the carrier pigeon are, thankfully, long gone.

Yet, at a time when the public continue to hold Parliamentarians in low esteem, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the influence of Rishi Sunak since he succeeded William Hague as the Conservative MP for Richmond. Though his background, and personality, is very different to the former Foreign Secretary, the current MP is clearly determined to come up with practical ways to make a difference, whether it be broadband provision, the future of the dairy industry or fairer funding for rural schools.

Following these object lessons in the art of the possible, it can only be hoped that Defra starts to exert some influence of its own. It can begin by reminding the Treasury that the Exchequer’s future finances depend on the rural economy having the infrastructure in place to maximise its potential. Mr Sunak realises this, why can’t Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss?

The nuclear option: Where is long-term energy plan?

THERE WILL be relief that French energy giant EDF has chosen to given a stay of execution to four nuclear power stations which had been due to be decommissioned.

These plants generate electricity for one quarter of the country’s population and the decision eases fears about a looming energy crisis because of a shortage of supplies.

However EDF is still to fully commit to the planned construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point in Somerset and many will be uneasy that Britain appears to have so little control over the future energy policy.

The consequence will be the UK being left at the mercy of fuel imports from countries like Russia because of the failure of sufficient governments to plan for the end of deep coal mining – Kellingley Colliery shut amid much symbolism last December – while the renewables industry is still in its infancy as concerns grow about the economics and effectiveness of wind power.

In this regard, the Government has no choice. It is duty-bound to work with the likes of EDF, and potential Chinese investors, to build a new generation of nuclear plants – this latest decision has simply bought Ministers an additional five years which must not be squandered because of the prevailing culture of delay and dither at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

A long-term economic plan – David Cameron and George Osborne’s oft-repeated mantra – is worthless unless there is a long-term energy plan to power Britain’s homes and businesses at prices which can be afforded by all. This, after all, is still the world’s fifth largest economy.

Farming’s future: Selling industry to young people

ADAM HENSON, the face of BBC’s Countryfile programme, made a profound point as he sold the virtues of farming to students, and delegates, at East Yorkshire’s acclaimed Bishop Burton College.

Contrary to popular impression, there’s far 
more to agriculture than manual work associated with milking a herd of 
dairy cows or tending to a flock of sheep – this is now a state-of-the-art industry using the very latest engineering excellence, and digital age business practices, to make ends meet.

This is important if a new generation of youngsters are to be persuaded to commit their futures to the rural economy. Without farmers, Britain simply cannot produce food. Without food, this country becomes even more dependent on the import of everyday produce. It’s a message that doesn’t just apply to the Government and those who work in farming; it is also extremely pertinent to those advising young people on their career options.