Communities and businesses in the most remote areas will benefit from better access to wireless networks thanks to plans announced today as part of a larger government effort to grow the infrastructure. rural economy.
A new £7 million fund will test new ways to connect to the internet via satellite, wireless and fixed, helping to help farmers and tourism businesses access lightning-fast connectivity for the first time, reliable in remote areas.
The results of the new approaches will also help rural businesses in the pilot areas get the most out of new agricultural technologies by improving their land connectivity, for example using new drone technology to monitor crops and livestock in real time, support wildlife and landscape conservation efforts, or develop interactive experiences for tourists.
The new fund comes with the government’s commitment earlier this year to deliver improved high-speed broadband via satellite connectivity to up to 35,000 homes in the most remote parts of the UK through £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 many steps the government is taking to boost rural communities with housing, transport, digital connectivity and jobs as outlined in a new publication today. Unleash Rural Opportunity, outlining how the government will implement the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy, create opportunities and better-paying jobs across the country. Rural areas already contribute 15% to the UK economy, or more than £250 billion of our national GDP, but the scheme is looking to unlock further growth.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
I am committed to building a better future for the people of this country, and our rural communities are at the heart of that promise.
That’s why I’m determined to make sure their interests are at the forefront and central to all of our work to grow our economies and strengthen our communities – so that every region of our country receive the necessary support for development.
To increase the supply of new affordable housing to rent or buy in rural areas, the government will create a new network of “Rural Housing Facilitators” to act as honest brokers between homeowners. development and community. Backed by a £2.5 million grant, they will help identify sites with local support for development and local area fit.
The government will advise on making it easier for farmers to convert their surplus agricultural buildings into family homes by cutting bureaucracy. Planning rules could be changed to provide a more generous threshold provided through a more streamlined planning process, while also giving local governments new powers to protect against second homes and allow vacations.
The publication, titled “Unleashing opportunities in the countryside”, will be officially announced by Foreign Minister for Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey at the Future Rural Conference.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:
The countryside covers more than 90% of the UK’s land area, it is home to millions of people and contributes more than £250 billion to our economy in the UK alone. Rural areas are rich in human and natural potential with strong communities and start-ups.
This government is committed to ensuring that the needs of people and businesses in rural areas are at the heart of policy making. We want to go further in unlocking that potential and helping people in rural areas build the sustainable future they want. Emancipating Rural Opportunity sets out what we already offer rural communities and new initiatives to build on that achievement.
Divided into four broad themes on housing, community, connectivity and growth, the plan will help create jobs and drive growth in rural areas, including proposals to expand internet provision and expand housing size in rural communities. It also includes plans to:
- Consult on next steps to help remote communities get online by encouraging provision of fixed wireless access and satellite services.
- Improve local transport networks through the Future Rural Transport Strategy, which outlines plans to improve access to services, address isolation, and increase access to jobs. work in rural and remote areas. The government will also consult on reforming the subsidy fund for bus operators to help them maintain low fares and high quality of service, helping to protect vital rural roads.
- Help more communities access village hall funding, by expanding the reach of the Jubilee Platinum Village Hall Fund from Fall 2023 by reducing the minimum funding threshold to £2,000
- Publish a new public library strategy for England by 2024, recognizing their role in many rural areas as hubs for local services and digital connectivity.
- Review how deprivation is measured in rural areas to better understand and consider this in decision making – ensuring the interests of rural communities are better represented.
- Over the summer, enact legislation to increase penalties for fly dumping and littering, and consult with key stakeholders about zoning the use of these fines to fund follow-up actions for garbage disposal.
- Additional funding for NPCC’s new national rural crime unit, to help cut crime and keep communities safe, by addressing anti-social behavior, device theft and role-playing New funding to tackle flies.
- Continue to make great progress in improving broadband and mobile coverage in rural areas by delivering the £5 billion Gigabit Project across the UK, including plans to buy acquire all regional contracts in the UK by the end of 2024.
- The soon-to-be-released Dental Plan will set out further reforms to improve access to NHS Dentistry, including in rural areas where recruitment may be particularly difficult. and retain dentists and other dental care professionals.
- Support rural electrical infrastructure, ensuring it keeps pace with changing consumer needs, such as supporting the electrification of heating and electric vehicle charging by announcing further plans to speed up grid connection.
- Quickly consult on a new fund to help small abattoirs improve productivity and enhance animal welfare, aiming to open funds for applications later this year.
- Advise on planning changes to make growers more flexible so they can modify their existing agricultural structures to make them more efficient more easily.
Secretary of State for Leveling, Housing & Communities, Michael Gove said:
We want more locals to reap the rewards of home ownership while maintaining the character of our beautiful landscapes.
We will unlock a new system of rural housing as we continue to reform our zoning system and give more freedoms to farm buildings to support the new supply of housing and affordable business.
Our commitment to building more affordable homes is why we’re investing £11.5 billion over 5 years in our Affordable Housing Program
The plan builds on key government action since 2010 to support rural communities.
- In March, it announced the UK Rural Prosperity Fund grant awards, a £110 million rural investment to the UK Commonwealth Fund to support leveling across the UK. Great Britain. It will support initiatives like farm diversification, projects that promote tourism, and community infrastructure projects like electric vehicle charging stations.
- Major improvements have also been made over the past decade to support connectivity in rural areas. More than 75% of UK facilities now have access to gigabit-capable broadband, [up from 6% at the beginning of 2019]and more than 730,000 facilities have been upgraded in hard-to-reach rural areas as part of our £5 billion investment in the Gigabit Project.
- Invest, with industry, £1 billion in Rural Shared Networks to improve 4G mobile coverage across the UK to achieve 95% geographic coverage by the end of 2025.
- Helping low-income rural households switch to cheaper heating. Up to £378 million is being provided as grants, fenced off to rural areas, to fund clean and energy efficient heating upgrades for low-income households. Low income earners live off the gas grid in the UK.
- Help those who have to travel the furthest to get to college every day by increasing the funding of our 16-19 scholarships by 10% for the 2023/24 academic year.
- Tackling fraud by increasing background checks on companies moving or dealing in waste, mandated digital waste tracking and helping regulators across the UK He easily took action against the rogue operators.
- Legislation to introduce tougher penalties and more effective enforcement tools to tackle barbaric illegal rabbit hunting.
- The government made good on its manifesto promise to hire 20,000 more police officers – the biggest increase in decades, helping to ensure that the public is better protected, including in rural communities.
- Support farmers to diversify their businesses and reward them for sustainable farming practices through the government’s £2.4 billion a year environmental land management programmes.
- Expanding the country’s nature reserves and nature networks, thereby providing an opportunity to increase ecotourism.
- Provide better and more accessible care in rural areas. This includes action to increase the number of doctors and primary care workers in underserved areas, and to support community pharmacies in underserved areas through the Program. pharmacy access.
- Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of farmers as a result of our Future Agricultural Recovery Fund, which supports farmers and land managers in the early years of agrarian transition, along with 2, £3 billion a year is invested in expanding and transforming mental health in the UK.
- Plans to cut bureaucracy currently hinder farmers from undertaking projects on their land to diversify their incomes, such as repurposing farm buildings to use as shops ,
- A new framework for trade negotiations puts farmers’ interests at the heart of trade policy by committing to protecting the UK’s high food and welfare standards and prioritizing opportunities. new export.
- Giving £2 million to promote our global trade show and mission program, and providing £1.6 million for the GREAT food and drink campaign, to support retailers Britain’s leading food and beverage producer and exporter.
This statement builds on DEFRA’s rural validation work, in which all government policies are checked to ensure they are working for rural communities. The next rural proof report will be published later this year.