The boss of a Stokesley robotics business which is growing at up to 20 per cent every year says a broadband pledge at the centre of a proposed devolution deal is the key to an investment boom in North Yorkshire.

York and North Yorkshire would have the power to hold the Government to a commitment for 100 per cent broadband and mobile coverage across York and North Yorkshire.

The leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Carl Les, said: “Less than 100 per cent broadband and mobile coverage across York and North Yorkshire is unacceptable in a digital economy and with new devolved powers we will be able to make sure the Government delivers on its commitments.

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“Improved digital infrastructure will encourage more world-class, outward-looking companies to invest for growth in our region.”

Andrew Whitwell, managing director of Labman Automation, a leading designer and manufacturer of custom laboratory automation and robotics based outside Stokesley has had to invest in its own fibre broadband connection due to poor local networks.

Founded in 1992, Labman employs 126 people, mostly engineers, and has a turnover of £12 million.

Mr Whitwell said: “We like to forge close links with our customers and you can’t do that in an email. If you are going to do anything in the world, you can do it on the other side of a screen and feel you are there. The whole of industry is waiting for really good video calls and you need a really good connection for that.

“It is easier to convince our customers to buy from us if we can demonstrate our capability clearly and exude a calm, cool and confidence. At the moment, it is a bit of a fuzz.

“Other companies in the area are stymied by the fact they can only get low quality data. They cannot simply upload and download documents from the cloud.”

Research by the independent North Yorkshire Rural Commission, which was established by the county council and launched in 2019, revealed that a fifth of all rural areas in the county have no broadband connection, compared with seven per cent in urban areas.

The commission called on the Government to view reliable high-quality broadband provision as a “basic human right”, just like other essential services to sustain communities in modern society.

Despite North Yorkshire County Council establishing a new company, NYnet, and investing £85m in broadband services, digital connectivity remains a significant challenge.

A multi-million pound scheme to dramatically enhance broadband speeds in the county began a decade ago, with the third and final phase of a partnership between North Yorkshire County Council and Openreach, the UK’s digital network business, now completed.

Since work began on the Superfast North Yorkshire programme in 2012, more than 190,000 premises have been upgraded on Openreach’s digital network.

A public consultation on the proposed devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire is live and runs until December 16. Visit for more information and to take part in the consultation.


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