Rory brings new Secretary of State to Penrith and the Border for his “first ministerial visit”
Rory had the pleasure this Wednesday of hosting Owen Paterson, the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on his first official visit in his new role.
A tour of the Lakes Free Range Egg Company’s pioneering packaging plant in Stainton highlighted the positive impact that investment from DEFRA can have on local businesses. Owner, David Brass, is currently employing close to 60 people across Cumbria and Lancaster, and supplying some of the very leading national brands. Speaking at the event, Rory said: “This is a rural enterprise which has combined quality branding, high ethical standards and local farming knowledge, to produce a highly successful product. This is exactly the sort of business we need to ensure government is doing everything they can to further support.”
Rory then introduced the Minister to Libby Bateman, whose Fellend broadband project, a national pilot, was the first project in the county to receive funding from the Minister’s department – delivering superfast broadband to a remote rural community near Kirkby Stephen. This was followed by a meeting chaired by Rory, to bring the the Secretary of State together with the National Park, local businesses, and the county council to discuss Cumbria’s broadband and mobile future. The group explained the success of Threlkeld’s 4G pilot project and proposed a much larger 4G pilot scheme to be centred in the Lake District. Owen Paterson committed that he would be making broadband and mobile phone coverage issues “a top priority” within DEFRA and has promised to work closely with Rory to see what can be achieved. If successful, the project would seek to provide close to 100% high-speed broadband coverage for the region.
The day continued with the Minister’s visit to Cranston’s Foodhall in Penrith, where the Minister saw another example of “an extraordinary Cumbrian success story”, and met Manager, Roger Cranston. It finished with the Minister meeting, among others, Chair of Cumbrian NFU, Alan Dickinson, police and crime commissioner candidate, and Chair of the Cumbria probation trust, Richard Rhodes, and Eden District Council Leader, Gordon Nicholson.
Rory said: “The Secretary of State’s visit was a great success. We were honoured that he chose us for his very first official visit, and we expect him back very soon. Perhaps the biggest headline of the day was broadband. We have worked really hard to secure funding and support for broadband projects within Cumbria, with the aim of allowing even the most isolated households and businesses to gain access to high-speed broadband, and the recognised economic and social benefits it brings. Today was about showing the minister the positive impact that broadband infrastructure has already had on some local communities and why Cumbria is the perfect place to launch further pilot schemes. I look forward to working with the Secretary of State and his emphasise on broadband today was extremely encouraging. The key now is action and results. ”