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Church spires will be used to boost rural broadband and mobile connections

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said the move showed that even medieval buildings can be used for 21st century services.

Church spires will be used to boost broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas, the Culture Secretary has announced.

Matt Hancock said the agreement with the Church of England to use spires showed medieval buildings can still help deliver 21st century services.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said guidance set out by both the Church and Historic England will ensure that that any telecoms infrastructure  does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches.

The majority of Anglican churches (65%) and parishes (66%) in England are in rural areas, often in the heart of their communities, and so are well-placed to tackle problems of poor connectivity.

They will be used alongside other church properties and farm buildings to host telecoms infrastructure.

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A view of snow-covered peaks in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park behind Kincardine in Mentieth church and schoolhouse in Stirlingshire. (John Linton/PA)

Mr Hancock said: “Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country.

“This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.”

The Dioceses of Chelmsford and Norwich are already supporting programmes which use Church buildings to improve connectivity in rural areas.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, said:  “We know that rural churches in particular have always served as a hub for their communities. Encouraging churches to improve connectivity will help tackle two of the biggest issues rural areas face – isolation and sustainability.

“The Diocese of Chelmsford has been pioneering this approach with County Broadband since 2013. Our work has significantly improved rural access to high-speed broadband.”

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File photo dated 03/01/18 of the icons of social media apps. (Yui Mok/PA)

The Bishop of Norwich, Right Reverend Graham James, said: “I welcome this agreement. It builds on what we have been seeking to do in the Diocese of Norwich since 2011 with the creation of WiSpire, a company seeking to use church towers and spires to enable wifi connectivity in communities, especially in rural locations.

“Our parish churches are a truly national network, and to use them creatively to create new forms of connectivity enhances their value for the communities they serve.”

Hamish Macleod, director of Mobile UK, said: “Mobile UK welcomes this announcement from Government and the Church of England, which emphasises the benefits of mobile connectivity to local communities.

“Where there is a need, a suitable building is available and appropriate terms can be agreed, the mobile operators will continue to extend their use of churches to increase mobile coverage and capacity, while respecting the church environment.”

Rural Affairs Minister Lord Gardiner said: “It is vitally important people living in the countryside have the same opportunities as those in urban areas, and that means having strong mobile and broadband infrastructures in place.

“This initiative marks an important step in our continued drive to connect better our rural communities and bridge the digital divide.”

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