Government Minister visits Richmondshire to inspect broadband scheme

Matt Hancock, centre, with County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les, left, and Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond, enjoy tea, cakes and computers at Lakeside Country Café at Ellerton on Swale. Behind them are, from left, Ian Marr, community broadband project manager, Susan Hargadon, community project executive, both from Superfast North Yorkshire, and café owner Sarah Thompson.

Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock MP has visited Richmondshire to see the benefits North Yorkshire County Council’s pioneering superfast broadband work is bringing to businesses and residents.

For the next phase of Superfast North Yorkshire, the county council is investing more than £12m from its funds, supported by a further £7.3m from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and £1m in European funding.

Councillor Carl Les, leader of the county council, who invited Mr Hancock to see the work being done in the county, said: “We have made the most progress of all the organisations that are part of the BDUK programme and have the best track record.

“It’s a priority for us to make North Yorkshire an even better place to live and do business. Superfast broadband also benefits education, as, increasingly, pupils and students need the internet for their schoolwork and studies.

“We are well placed to achieve our target coverage of between 95 and 96 per cent of premises and we applaud the public of North Yorkshire for their fantastic uptake of superfast broadband, which shows how important it is for rural communities that want to be sustainable. For many businesses and residents, superfast broadband is a way of achieving that sustainability.

“However, we realise there is still work to do, including investment to target communities that don’t currently have coverage. In places that aren’t viable for commercial providers, we have stepped in, going beyond our statutory obligations, because we are committed to helping our most isolated residents and businesses to get a good-quality connection.”

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: “Our rollout of superfast broadband has already reached another 165,000 homes and businesses with Superfast North Yorkshire. This is a commendable achievement as a result of the County Council’s forward-thinking approach. However, more needs to be done.

“More than £20m is now being invested in taking superfast speeds to more local premises, helping make sure people have the fast, reliable and affordable broadband that they need for the digital age.”

Today, Mr Hancock visited Ellerton on Swale, near Scorton, where superfast broadband has arrived in the last couple of months.

Mr Hancock met residents, including Sarah Thompson, owner of Lakeside Country Café.

Sarah’s family were pig farmers who diversified in 2006, opening a farm shop, which has developed into the café.

The café provides home cooking using local meat and produce where possible. The family also runs leisure activities, including cycling and open-water swimming, at the lake, along with a caravan park.

The site also includes the Green Frog garden centre and Triology Multisport Solutions, which caters for cyclists and triathletes.

Following the arrival of superfast access, Sarah is upgrading so customers will be able to use wi-fi in the café.

She said: “We have never been able to offer wi-fi in the café, so it will make a big difference.

“People expect to be able to access wi-fi wherever they go. It will enhance our business because more people will want to come down to the café and people staying at the caravan park will be able to come here to use the wi-fi.

“It will also help in the day-to-day running of the business with simple things like card payments and online orders.

“It is making a big difference to people personally in the village as a whole. I have three boys and they are delighted.”

Local farmer and parish councillor John Bell helped, along with other members of the parish council, to identify a route for the broadband cables. He has already taken advantage of the superfast access.

“It means being able to access the 21st century,” he said.

“Before, most things you needed to do timed out before you had finished, whether, as a farmer, that was to do with tax, Defra or the Rural Payments Agency. I have a teenage family and it is fantastic for them to download things almost instantaneously.”

He said about 70 people in the village could take advantage of the superfast access and the initial feedback was that it was marvellous.