We have been invited to give evidence in writing and in person to the House of Commons Committee which is examining the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
This follows our Briefing on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. We have particular concerns about the implications of clause 7 which would remove the duty for the secretary of state to have regard to National Park purposes when making regulations under the Electronics Communications Code (this sets out regulations relating to the siting of telecommunications infrastructure).
We recognise the importance of providing faster broadband in rural areas but believe that this is best done in a planned and co-ordinated way which takes account of the special status of all designated landscapes. There is no evidence that the additional protection afforded designated landscapes has delayed the roll-out of broadband. In fact National Park Authorities are taking a proactive approach to facilitating broadband delivery in a way which minimises the visual impacts and we included several examples to illustrate this in the briefing we sent to MPs. The real barrier to broadband roll-out is the absence of state-aid clearance from the EU.
During the second reading of the Bill on 5 November, it became obvious that our concerns about clause 7 had been picked up by a number of MPs. Hilary Benn (Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) mentioned the Campaign for National Parks by name, saying he could see why we wanted the clause removed and several other MPs, including some Conservatives, expressed concerns about the implications of clause 7 or raised issues which support our concerns. These included Sarah Wollaston, Nick Herbert, Cheryl Gillan, Annette Brooke, Clive Betts, Tristram Hunt and Ian Murray.
Michael Fallon, a minister in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills indicated that the government would be consulting shortly on the proposals that relate to broadband infrastructure in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. He also promised to write to Nick Herbert and Anne Marie Morris to reassure them about their concerns on clause 7.
What we are doing
> Giving oral evidence to the Committee on 20 November
> Producing further written evidence, as invited
> Following up with interested MPs to ensure we can build on their positive support.
> Producing further briefings for MPs and Peers as the Bill progresses through Parliament
What you can do
> Read the evidence we have submitted to date
> Send us case studies we can use to support our case
> Write to your MP about the implications of the Bill for National Parks