HL Deb 08 June 2004 vol 662 cc31-2WA
Baroness Byford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the paucity of broadband available in large parts of the countryside means that many landowners and tenant farmers are unable to consult Countryside Agency maps showing the extent of public access granted over their land. [HL2981]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty)

The Government are working to promote the most extensive rollout of broadband, including providing £30 million via the UK Broadband Fund to regional development agencies and devolved administrations to develop broadband networks and run pilot projects and over £1 billion between 2003–06 for broadband connectivity for public services. Defra and the DTI are working together to facilitate the rollout of broadband in rural areas both through the provision of advice and guidance and through support for community organisations. Our success to date has been recognised by the OECD. The OECD report on The Development of Broadband Access in Rural and Remote Areas published in May 2004 found the achievement of 85 per cent DSL coverage by the end of February 2004 and the revised goal of 99.6 per cent coverage by summer 2005 showed the success of the UK Government's approach in relying on competition to expand broadband availability.

The Countryside Agency's maps relating to the new right of access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 are available in paper form but they can also be viewed on the Internet using dial-up connections as well as via broadband. If landowners and tenant farmers prefer to make use of broadband connections and these are not available in their homes, over 85 per cent of libraries have such connections.

The maps may be viewed in a number of places in paper form. Relevant provisional maps have been sent to library authorities, local libraries, local authorities (with additional copies to selected libraries and commons registration offices), national park authorities and parish councils. As conclusive maps are produced, they are also being sent in paper form to appropriate local authorities, national park authorities and parish councils. Both provisional and conclusive maps are available for viewing at Countryside Agency offices in Cheltenham, Bristol, Manchester, and regional offices within the mapping area concerned. Precise details of where members of the public may view the provisional and conclusive maps in paper form can be obtained by telephoning the Open Access Contact Centre on 0845 100 3298.

Copies of the provisional and conclusive maps in paper form are also available to purchase by calling 0870 122 1242.