Broadband is the biggest issue for rural residents and businesses

Broadband was listed as the main issue that the government should tackle to improve the countryside as a place to live or do business. According to Knight Frank’s Rural Sentiment survey, over 70% of those who took the survey listed it as the top priority.

Furthermore, almost 50% of the respondents to the survey said that poor broadband was either affecting the profitability of their business or quality of life now. Only 11% said it was not an issue that was of concern to them.

James Del Mar, Head of Knight Frank Rural Consultancy, comments:

“These results should send a strong message to the government that if it really wants to support rural business generation it must provide the same quality broadband that those in the city take for granted. From my own experience of dealing with rural businesses, there is a huge amount of innovation and entrepreneurship happening at the moment. It would be a shame if that was stifled due to poor broadband.”

Looking at the other results, almost 50% of those surveyed said they thought renewable energy would be beneficial for their quality of life or business profitability in the future. On the other hand, almost 40% of respondents said even though wind farms would not affect them personally, they were worried about their impact on the countryside. For rural homeowners that figure rose to 50%. The respective figures for solar farms were 35% and 45%.

James Del Mar further comments:

“Renewable energy is one of those topics that people often have mixed opinions about and our survey results echo that. What we are finding now with many of our clients is that renewable energy can be a win-win situation. Technologies such as biomass boilers or ground-source heat can be discrete and unobtrusive, while delivering significant economic benefits. Even sensibly located larger-scale schemes do not have to be controversial, especially if site owners engage with local communities.”

Around 16% of all respondents said fly tipping was actually affecting the profitability of their businesses – increasing to 20% for estates – while 24% said it had an impact on their quality of life. Just 12% did not consider it an issue they were worried about. Following broadband, tackling fly tipping was also considered the second-most important issue that would improve the countryside as a place to live by most categories of respondents.

By contrast, over 45% of people said fracking was not of concern to them, with almost 19% saying it could even improve their quality of life or business profitability. Whilst this may be the case, James Del Mar says a large number of homeowners remain very sceptical and concerned about fracking and its implications for amenity, house values and land stability.

Just over 60% of all respondents said HS2 was an issue that did not concern them, despite all its negative press, second only to Scottish independence (62%). Unsurprisingly, however, those living in Scotland who took the survey were less sanguine about the prospect of independence. Almost 90% said it was already affecting the profitability of their business or quality of life, or would do so in the future.

CAP reform was the biggest issue that farmers and estate owners thought the government should focus on to make the countryside a better place to do business. With all other survey responses, improving rural transport and tackling the scourge of Bovine TB were other key areas those taking the survey wanted the government to sort out.

Encouragingly, almost 48% of rural businesses expect their profitability to increase in 2014, compared with 30% in 2013.

James Del Mar comments:

“As the results of the survey show, rural businesses face many challenges. But with the right government and professional support most will continue to prosper.”

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