In a National Assembly debate on connectivity in rural Wales, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have highlighted the importance of digital and transport connectivity to unlocking the economic potential of rural areas.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on the Welsh Government to:
examine ways in which the planning system can support the development of digital infrastructure;
improve integrated transport so that young people can access more rural apprenticeships; and
examine the benefits of a community bank structure so that those without online access can still visit a local branch.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Minister, Eluned Parrott, said:
"Rural areas in Wales have a huge untapped economic potential as poor broadband, mobile and transport connections prevent businesses from turning aspiration into reality and people cannot easily access the latest online services and facilities.
"Superfast broadband availability across Wales ranges from 88% in urban areas to just 6% in rural areas and mobile signal in many rural areas is non-existent. This stifles the ability of rural businesses to reach out to the widest markets, to harness the latest technologies and innovations. We need to look at how the planning system can enable the development of digital infrastructure to help improve broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas.
"Poor quality and unreliable transport connections also prevent many rural businesses from offering apprenticeships places as young people struggle to access local employers. We need more imagination when it comes to planning integrated transport schemes, so that businesses are encouraged to offer apprenticeship places. This will help preserve our key rural trades and offer more opportunities for young people in rural communities.
"We also need to look at a community bank structure to sustain the presence of a local branch in rural communities, for people who may be unable to access online banking or easily travel to their nearest large town or city to access their bank.
"Addressing these key connectivity concerns would go a long way to unlocking the economic potential of rural areas and helping businesses and individuals to access the services that many of us take for granted in our everyday lives."