Broadband and buses top parish concerns

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BROADBAND, buses and affordable homes are the top priorities for Suffolk’s parishes according to a survey of parish councils.

The Rural Services Survey by Suffolk Action with Communities in Rural England (Acre) reveals the top concern for its theme Community Facilities and Services was broadband, the second was bus service issues.

The environmental issue most frequently raised by the 345 of 415 councils who responded (84 per cent) were wind turbines and dog fouling, while the top planning issue was affordable homes.

The survey only covers rural parishes and excludes towns with populations over 10,000 so it reveals the poor state of Suffolk’s rural broadband.

Four years ago, Acre’s survey showed 14 per cent of parishes had no broadband where today all have it. But the survey’s more detailed analysis of ‘rural communications technology’ shows the majority, 46 per cent, rate broadband coverage as poor while 32 per cent say it is average, 14 per cent good and only two per cent find it excellent.

Mobile phone coverage fares little better. Only one parish is still without it but 40 per cent rate coverage as poor and 34 per cent as average. Only three per cent think they have excellent coverage.

Though 82 per cent of parishes have a scheduled bus services, the report warns: “The apparent high availability of scheduled bus services should be treated with caution as many parishes only have a scheduled service that operates on one day per week.”

In addition, though 98 per cent of those with a bus service said it accessed a main shopping area and 74 per cent said the bus accessed main employment centres, only 57 per cent could get to a hospital by bus. The number of parishes without a bus service has risen for 12 per cent in 2008 to 18 per cent.

Though 57 per cent of parishes say they now have affordable housing, compared with 29 per cent in 2008, that figure includes having only one affordable home in the parish. In addition, 35 per cent said there are currently proposals for affordable housing development, though four per cent, 15 parishes, said a housing needs survey had shown there was ‘no need’ for any.

Comparisons with the 2008 survey show more parishes are without youth organisations, banking, a doctor’s surgery or a police station

The percentage without a ‘faith building’ has doubled from two to four per cent while those without a Post Office have risen from 67 per cent to 69 per cent.