Communities and businesses in the most remote areas will benefit from better access to wireless networks according to plans announced today, 6 June, as part of the government’s wider drive to grow the rural economy.
A new £7 million fund will test out new ways to bring together satellite, wireless and fixed line internet connectivity, helping support farmers and businesses to access lightning-fast, reliable connectivity in remote areas for the first time.
The results of the new approaches will also help rural businesses in trial areas make the most of new agricultural technologies by improving connectivity on their land, for example using new drone technology to monitor crops and livestock in real-time, support landscape and wildlife conservation efforts, or develop interactive experiences for tourists.
The new fund comes alongside the government’s commitment earlier this year to deliver improved, high-speed broadband via satellite connectivity for up to 35,000 homes in the most remote parts of the UK through an £8 million grant scheme, giving them a broadband connection that will be up to ten times faster than what is currently available to them.
The fund is one of a broad range of steps the government is taking to boost rural communities on housing, transport, digital connectivity and jobs as set out in a new publication today. Unleashing Rural Opportunity which outlines how government will deliver the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country. Rural areas already contribute 15% to England’s economy, which amounts to over £250 billion of our national GDP, but the programme seeks to unlock further growth.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "I have pledged to build a better future for people in this country, and our rural communities are right at the heart of that promise.
"That’s why I’m determined to make sure that their interests are front and centre of all our work to grow the economy and strengthen our communities – so that every part of our country gets the support it needs to thrive."
The publication, titled “Unleashing Rural Opportunity”, will be formally unveiled at the Future Countryside Conference by Secretary of State for Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: "The countryside makes up over 90% of the UK’s land mass, it is home to millions of people, and contributes over £250 billion to our economy in England alone. Rural areas are rich in human and natural potential with strong communities and entrepreneurial businesses.
"This government is committed to making sure that the needs of people and businesses in rural areas are at the heart of policymaking. We want to go further in unleashing that potential and support people in rural areas to build the sustainable future they want to see. Unleashing Rural Opportunity sets out what we have already delivered for rural communities and new initiatives to build on that record."
The plan also intends to:
Consult on further steps to help remote communities get online by encouraging the provision of fixed wireless access and satellite services.
Improve local transport networks through a Future of Transport Rural Strategy, which will set out plans to improve access to services, tackle isolation and increase access to jobs in rural and remote areas. The Government will also consult on reforming grant funding for bus operators to help them keep fares low and service levels high, helping to protect vital rural routes.
Publish a new public libraries strategy for England in 2024, recognising the role as they play in many rural areas as hubs for local services and digital connectivity.
Review how deprivation in rural areas is measured so that it is better understood and taken into account in decision making – ensuring the interests of rural communities are better represented.
Legislate by the summer to increase fly-tipping and litter penalties and consult key stakeholders on ringfencing the use of these fines to fund further action on fly-tipping.
Additional funding for the NPCC’s new national rural crime unit, to help cut crime and keep communities safe, by tackling anti-social behaviour, equipment theft and a new funded role to tackle fly-tipping.
Continue to make great progress in improving broadband and mobile coverage in rural areas by delivering the £5 billion Project Gigabit across the UK at pace, including plans to procure all regional contracts in England by the end of 2024.
Support electricity infrastructure in rural areas, making sure it keeps up with the changing needs of consumers for example, to support the electrification of heating and EV charging by publishing further plans to accelerate electricity network connections.
Consult shortly on a new fund to help smaller abattoirs to improve productivity and enhance animal welfare, aiming to open a fund for applications later this year.
Consult on planning changes to make agricultural development more flexible for farmers so they can amend their existing agricultural buildings to make them more productive more easily.