Farmers set to benefit from £7m internet connectivity fund

Communities and businesses in the most remote areas of England are set to benefit from a new £7m fund to boost internet connectivity.

The cash will be used to test new ways to bring together satellite, wireless and fixed-line internet connectivity, with the hope that farmers will be able to take advantage of new technologies to monitor crops and livestock in real time.

The fund is one part of a much broader package of measures designed to “unleash rural opportunity”.

See also: Rural connectivity still holding back farms, survey finds

On housing, there is a promise to consult on making it easier for farmers to change agricultural buildings into houses, as well as plans to hand councils new powers to safeguard against second homes and holiday lets that price locals out of the market.

A £2.5m pot has also been set aside for a network of “rural housing enablers”, which will identify sites for development that is in keeping with the local area and has community backing.

CLA president Mark Tufnell said: “At last, the government is showing ambition for the countryside and those living in it.

“This plan shows how government can work together to slash the 19% productivity gap between rural and urban areas, which could add £43bn to the UK’s economy.

“It must now act with urgency to deliver on these promises and match the ambition of rural businesses at every turn.”

Litter clampdown

A fresh clampdown on littering was also outlined in the package, with a promise of higher penalties for fly-tippers.

The new punishments will be outlined in legislation later this summer, alongside a consultation on ringfencing any money raised from the fines to fund further action on fly-tipping.

Additional cash for a national rural crime unit will also be set aside, including funding for a fly-tipping tsar.

Further pledges include reforming grant funding for bus operators in rural areas to keep service levels up, increased travel bursary funding for students at college, and accelerating electricity network connections in the countryside.  

A review of how deprivation in rural areas is measured will also take place to ensure the interests of rural communities are taken into account in decision-making.

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