INDUSTRY NEWS – Rural Connectivity Still Undervalued

The CLA has recently analysed the way in which 50 local authorities use their settlement hierarchy when deciding the locations of new development allocations in a Local Plan.

Such hierarchies work by ranking villages, scoring them against a range of services and amenities, However the research conducted by the CLA has revealed that only 18% of local authorities even consider broadband connectivity when assessing the sustainability of these rural areas. Despite the day-to-day services that internet connectivity can facilitate, such as online shopping and general communication.

Tim Breitmeyer, the President of the CLA, stated “Updating rural planning policy to include connectivity in sustainability assessments means English villages will not be trapped in analogue when the rest of the world is in the digital age and can access much of the housing they desperately need.”

This reinforces the view that rural Britain is increasingly ignored and marginalised by national policies. Local authorities should be directed to be more proactive and appropriate in identifying the ways in which people access services in the wake of modern technology.

Rural connectivity is no new issue; that the National Infrastructure Commission has stated the need for investment in a digitally driven economy, while in the October budget £200 million was pledged from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) for the distribution of fibre broadband networks in rural areas, primarily starting with schools and working to enable businesses and residents local to the schools to upgrade their existing internet.

While generally seen as positive news, the deadlines leave much to be desired, as month by month the connectivity gap between urban and rural areas widens. Inadequate infrastructure not only has a negative effect on the growth of rural communities, it also deters the growth of rural businesses and discourages future generations of entrepreneurs, leading to the deterioration of local communities due to a lack of local investment.

A recent poll conducted by online price comparison service, U-Switch, found that a large number of people are often deterred from relocating to the countryside due to concerns regarding connectivity. 58% of urban respondents stated that slow or unreliable broadband connections would be their 2nd biggest concern when moving.