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Suffolk churches could be used to boost mobile connectivity in rural areas following new agreement between Government and Church of England

PUBLISHED: 08:45 19 February 2018

James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, supports the move to encourage churches to hold masts boosting mobile coverage. Picture: HARRIET STEER

James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, supports the move to encourage churches to hold masts boosting mobile coverage. Picture: HARRIET STEER

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A key new agreement between the Government and the Church of England could see many more churches used to boost mobile connectivity around Suffolk.

The Rt Revd Martin Seeley said churches in Suffolk should consider holding masts to increase connectivity for both villagers and businesses. Picture: KEITH MINDHAMThe Rt Revd Martin Seeley said churches in Suffolk should consider holding masts to increase connectivity for both villagers and businesses. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

A key new agreement between the Government and the Church of England could see many more churches used to boost mobile connectivity around Suffolk.

The initiative, designed to get isolated communities better connected, encourages churches to use their buildings and other property to host masts boosting 4G and mobile coverage.

It aims to draw in part upon the 65% of Anglican churches in the UK situated in rural areas, which could be used to tacke sparse coverage.

Churches in Suffolk, Bures, Ipswich St Thomas, Holbrook and Felixstowe St John already host mobile phone antenna, and many more have broadband antenna on the tower.

James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, said he was keen to see more satellites installed.

He said: “I am extremely pleased to see that the Government has reached an agreement with the Church of England to increase the amount of churches with mobile satellites. In lots of rural areas the church tower is the highest point in the area so it makes absolute sense to utilise these pre-existing structures to minimise the impact on the local landscape.

“I am always encouraged to see initiatives that will improve rural connectivity, and have been highlighting the potential for collaboration with local churches for some time as this was something that was being considered in Bures, one of South Suffolk’s villages with poor mobile signal.”

A spokesperson for Vodafone added: “We are always looking at ways to improve coverage and, provided all parties are happy with the design of the proposal, this can be a perfect solution to meet coverage needs.”

The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, is among those championing the initative nationally.

He said: “Supporting our rural communities by increasing connectivity both for villagers and businesses is an issue I have been lobbying on for a while behind the scenes with others nationally.

“I am delighted with this new agreement and encourage churches in Suffolk to consider this. Our churches are at the heart of the communities they serve and this is another way as Christians we can make a difference.

“Any work needs to be very sensitive to our beautiful grade I and II* listed churches. But it can be achieved well as we have seen in Suffolk already with the several churches leading the way on this during the past several years.”

The new national agreement is a high level, non-financial accord between the Church and Government, which encourages more churches to support connectivity in rural communities.

Any agreement, for which a rent may be paid, is between mobile and fixed operators and the local dioceses/parishes to agree.

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