A bid by a consortium of 39 parishes in the Blackdown Hills Parish Network (BHPN) in Devon and Somerset to bring fast, modern, internet connections to isolated rural communities has been rejected at first assessment and without discussion, by government. In a letter to Sajid Javid MP, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (previously Greg Clark MP), the group said: “This would have brought major benefits to small businesses in the area.” The consortium argue that rural productivity, isolation and access to services including health care could all be improved by the project in parishes that the governments own statistics show has some of the worst deprivation in the country for access to housing and services .
A week ago, our new Prime Minister, Theresa May MP said “We need a vision of a country that works not for the privileged few but that works for everyone of us”, but for years, broadband has not worked for many in the rural Blackdown Hills. The bid for ERDF funding submitted by the BHPN is a home grown initiative to solve the problem, but Sajid Javid’s South West Growth Team has rejected an outline funding application on very weak grounds. An appeal has now been made directly to Sajid Javid, with the support of local MPs Neil Parish and Rebecca Pow and if the application is not reconsidered, it is planned also to appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman.
East Devon District Council who are the BHPN’s Delivery Partner for the project have described rejection of the bid without due consideration as a disgrace and are also making their views known directly to the Minister.
Heather Stallard, Chair of the Blackdown Hills Parish Network said “If Mrs May means what she says, then we hope that the new Minister for Communities and Local Government will reconsider our outline application”