CLA Sussex is today (14 July) calling on authorities in the region to stop treating communities in the countryside like a ‘poor relation’.
Leo Hickish, Chair of the Sussex Branch of the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) said: “We are becoming increasingly frustrated with rural communities being treated like a poor relation, in particular when it comes to road maintenance and broadband provision.
“Our perception is that money is spent on improving the roads in visible urban areas while those in the countryside are left to fall into severe disrepair, which has major consequences for people living and working in the Sussex countryside.
“Some village roads have become so bad that they are impossible to pass unless you are in a four wheel drive vehicle. Delivery drivers have been refusing to drive down the roads. Maintenance work on these quieter roads may be less visible, but it is critical for those who rely on them every day.”
The combination of a sub-standard road network along with poor rural broadband coverage is hindering efforts to bridge the rural-urban divide, and some people living in the countryside are becoming increasingly isolated.
Mr Hickish continued: “A reliable broadband service is essential for the countryside, not least because rural businesses of all types need it to remain competitive. In a personal capacity, people living in the countryside should be able to access the benefits of the internet in terms of education, community and healthcare.
“It is positive that East Sussex County Council and West Sussex County Council have programmes in place to increase access to superfast broadband in rural areas. But where does this leave people who will still be without access? There is a danger of creating an under-class of users in the more remote villages and countryside. Roll-out needs to be accelerated and extended so that reliable and affordable broadband is available to all rural communities, in every corner of Sussex.”