£3.6million funding boost

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Northumberland’s quest for superfast broadband has received a major boost, with the success of funding bids that could total over £3.6million.

Four bids by the county council’s broadband team to Defra’s Rural Community Broadband Fund have all been give the green light to go to the full application stage, which will potentially bring in around £1.5million of funding together with £2.1million in private sector match-funding.

And Defra has suggested that Northumberland has achieved one of the highest success rates in the UK with Riding Mill also successful with the fund, but this is being delivered by a community group with the support of the council team.

The four areas are Felton, Coquetdale, North Tyne and Redesdale, which includes Kielder and Otterburn, and Hexhamshire.

The number of properties included in the five areas is just under 5,000, which means that these 5,000 premises that would not be receiving superfast broadband under the BDUK central Government-funded programme will now benefit.

The council’s iNorthumberland campaign has expressed concerns about where the funding to take superfast broadband to the last 10 per cent of the county would come from and this funding will help make the central funding go further in other areas.

iNorthumberland programme director Stephen Gray told the Gazette: “We are starting to move now on the main procurement meaning that we will connect across certain areas of Northumberland and the Defra funding will take us further.

“It certainly supports our push for that last 10 per cent.

“We obviously have to go through the last stage of the process to provide our business case, but it’s always a good sign when you get through this stage because quite a lot of schemes get deferred or rejected.”

He also said that the team is waiting to hear the result of a bid to the European Regional Development Fund, which could affect up to 5,000 businesses.