The UK government today (Tuesday, June 6) unveiled a £7 million plan to ensure remote areas and rural communities will benefit from better access to wireless networks.

The new ‘Unleashing Rural Opportunity’ programme aims to grow the economy by “creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country”.

A new £7 million fund will test out new ways to bring together satellite, wireless and fixed line internet connectivity to help support farmers and tourism businesses to access lightning fast, reliable connectivity in remote areas for the first time.

The government said that the results of these approaches will help rural businesses in trial areas make the most of new agricultural technologies by improving connectivity to their land.

These technologies include using new drone technology to monitor crops and; livestock; supporting landscape and wildlife conservation efforts; and developing interactive experiences for tourists.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey formally launched the Unleashing Rural Opportunity initiative at the Future Countryside Conference today.

“The countryside makes up over 90% of the UK’s land mass, it is home to millions of people, and contributes over £250 billion to our economy in England alone,” she said.

“Rural areas are rich in human and natural potential with strong communities and entrepreneurial businesses. 

“This government is committed to making sure that the needs of people and businesses in rural areas are at the heart of policymaking. We want to go further in unleashing that potential and support people in rural areas to build the sustainable future they want to see.”

Unleashing Rural Opportunity

The UK government has highlighted that rural areas contribute 15% to England’s economy, which amounts to over £250 billion of the national GDP.

According to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the new Unleashing Rural Opportunity programme seeks to unlock further growth.

The prime minister said: “I have pledged to build a better future for people in this country, and our rural communities are right at the heart of that promise.

“That’s why I’m determined to make sure that their interests are front and centre of all our work to grow the economy and strengthen our communities – so that every part of our country gets the support it needs to thrive.”

To boost the supply of new affordable housing to rent or buy in rural areas, the government said it will create a network of new “rural housing enablers” to act as brokers between developers and communities.

Backed by £2.5 million of funding, these brokers will also help to identify sites with local support for development and in keeping with the local area.

In addition to this the government plans to consult on making it easier for farmers to change their redundant agricultural buildings into family homes.

“Planning rules could be changed to provide a more generous threshold delivered through the more streamlined planning process, while providing local authorities with new powers to safeguard against second homes and holiday lets”, the government said.

Secretary of State for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove added: “We want more local people to reap the rewards of homeownership while maintaining the special character of our beautiful landscapes.

“We will be unlocking a new pipeline of rural housing as we continue to reform our planning system and offering greater freedoms on farm buildings to support a new supply of affordable homes and businesses. 

“Our commitment to build more affordable homes is why we are investing £11.5 billion over five years in our Affordable Homes Programme”