Lack of adequate broadband connections and ‘not-spots’ in some of the most rural parts of Wales are amongst the biggest frustrations for local communities and businesses, according to a Wales Office report published today (Monday, 11 July).
Wales Office Minister David Jones was visiting a farm at St Clears, Carmarthenshire, which has diversified into a leisure and accommodation complex, to launch the findings of the department’s Rural Economy Taskforce Report.
Mr Jones was asked by Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan last year to lead a taskforce to explore the major issues affecting rural communities and economies across Wales. Together with Wales Office officials, he visited rural communities across Wales to discuss at first hand the concerns of the local farming and agricultural communities.
Frustration over broadband links was singled out as the biggest concern to those communities, together with threats to the future of key local facilities such as post offices and shops and over-strict red-tape regulations.
Launching the report, Mr Jones said: “The feedback we received for the Rural Economy Taskforce Report showed that local communities and businesses are becoming more and more reliant on effective broadband coverage. However, in rural areas, broadband speeds are often extremely slow and sometimes non existent. Last week’s Ofcom report highlighted the scale of the challenge we face, with north, mid and west of Wales ranking among the worst areas of Britain for this vital infrastructure.
“This Government recognises reliable broadband is one of the most important highways to growth in the 21st century. In February, the Chancellor and Welsh Secretary announced a £10mn investment in superfast broadband for the Pwllheli area. There will be more UK Government money to come so that other areas can benefit too from improved broadband speeds to ensure the whole of Wales and the rest of the UK have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015. We are committed to breaking down the barriers to effective communications in rural areas, helping farmers, households and businesses across Wales.”
The Minister was visiting Llety Cynin, a leisure and accommodation business in St. Clears, to see how rural businesses are diversifying in order to expand and become more competitive. The business, which started out as a family-run dairy herd and sheep farm, has grown to include leisure, accommodation, conferencing and businesses services from its converted coach house.
Mr. Jones said: “Small farms and rural businesses like Llety Cynin are evolving into thriving media-savvy businesses. It is heartening to see the Welsh rural economy adapting and finding new ways of connecting with customers and tourists from around the world.”
The full Rural Economy Taskforce Report is available at the Wales Office website at www.walesoffice.gov.uk
For more information on Llety Cynin, www.lletycynin.co.uk