Taking part in her first Rural Roadshow, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has today been in Yorkshire to meet the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network in Harrogate and listen to the priorities, issues and concerns of Yorkshire’s rural communities, businesses and food and farming industries.
The Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network is one of fourteen rural networks set up to identify and feedback local issues and concerns through a hotline to the heart of Government.
Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman said:
“Coming here for my first rural roadshow to find out what issues the community face and visiting a business park to see how superfast broadband can transform a Yorkshire business has been a great experience. Our rural communities across the country have great potential and we want to unlock it. That’s what the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network will help us do here.”
“We will champion the interests of rural communities within Government and find the best ways to support local businesses and boost the rural economy. That’s why we have invested £165 million to unlock the potential of rural areas, including £20 million to get the remotest areas online.”
Steve Willis, Chair of the Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network said:
“The rural and farming network has given rural communities and businesses in Yorkshire the chance to communicate important rural issues directly to Government. We are pleased to welcome Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman to Yorkshire today and look forward to engaging with Defra on key local issues like rural economic growth and the Rural Development Programme for England.”
Last year, Defra invited rural business and community leaders to come together in groups to help shape rural policy that meets the real needs of local people. The fourteen initial member groups making up the national Rural and Farming Network were announced in January 2012. Today is the first meeting in an ongoing process of engagement between the Network and Defra, the department for rural communities.
The Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network will be a key point of contact to give feedback to Defra on the impact of local emergencies, like flooding, so that the right kind of assistance can be provided to keep businesses running.
The Rural and Farming Network sits alongside a £165 million package of measures to support rural businesses and communities announced in the Rural Economy Growth Review.
The Growth Review confirmed that access to high quality broadband for rural businesses and households is fundamental to stimulating rural economic growth and supporting thriving rural communities. The UK Government has committed £530m to deliver improved rural broadband and North Yorkshire is in the first wave of local authorities awarded funding. Mrs Spelman today visited Oakwood Park Business Centre in Bishop Thornton, to see first hand how superfast broadband can transform the prospects of rural businesses. Whilst there, she attended the launch, by North Yorkshire County Council, of a campaign called ‘Go On North Yorkshire’ designed to raise awareness amongst rural businesses and households of the planned investment and help them prepare for the opportunities superfast broadband will bring to rural areas.
- The Government is investing £530 million to ensure the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, with 90 per cent of homes and businesses having access to superfast broadband and for everyone in the UK to have access to at least 2Mbps.
- An important part of the Government’s broadband rollout plans involves stimulating demand for superfast broadband at a local level. In North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire County Council is coordinating this activity through their ‘Go On North Yorkshire’ campaign. Defra, Broadband Delivery UK and Race Online are supporting North Yorkshire in this work.
- In addition, Defra’s £20 million Rural Community Broadband Fund will give rural communities in the 10% hardest to reach places in each county the chance to apply for funding to help them access a superfast broadband connection. The first application round closed on 31 January. Defra will announce plans for a subsequent application round in due course.