Pinch felt over rural broadband ‘failure’

Farmers and landowners are feeling the pinch over the Government’s failure to meet ambitious targets for rolling out broadband to rural areas, according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Dorothy Fairburn Regional Director North for the Country Landowners Association at the Great Yorkshire Show.
Dorothy Fairburn Regional Director North for the Country Landowners Association at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Dorothy Fairburn, the organisation’s regional director, said the shortcomings to provide better internet speeds to businesses in the countryside was one of a number of outstanding barriers to boosting economic growth in rural parts of the region.

Speaking at the Great Yorkshire Show, Miss Fairburn said: “The CLA has been campaigning since 2002 for effective and affordable broadband in all areas of the country and the National Audit Office just last week identified that the Government wasn’t going to reach its target to get broadband out to all rural areas which is what we have been saying for a number of years.

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“It’s critical for the rural economy that effective broadband is rolled out across all rural areas. Public departments are requiring all their returns to be made online so for landowners in remote parts of the country. In upland areas where income is tight for example farmers are being forced to use the services of an accountancy firm to do these returns for them.”

Dorothy Fairburn Regional Director North for the Country Landowners Association at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Landowners affected by the proposed route of the HS2 high speed rail link between Leeds, Manchester and London should be offered more protection too, she said, with the compulsory purchase of land used only as a last resort when negotiations stall and an agreement cannot be reached.

Miss Fairburn said: “There’s a line on the map that effectively blights all properties on that line. We want a property bond so owners don’t lose out as a result of the scheme and a discretionary provision for the redistribution of land back to landowners (if more land is taken than needed for the scheme).”

She also talked about the need for a rethink on the authorities’ approach to improving public access to private land, with a greater focus required on maintenance of existing rights of way rather than adding to them.

“Lots of our members do permissive access so we get upset when Natural England is pushing ahead with compulsory access.”