COLUMN: Reporting Back with MP Julian Smith

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Julian discusses mobile reception and internet communications, securing adequate signage for Masham from the A1(M) and the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire in 2014:

A campaign which I have supported since before I was the MP for Skipton and Ripon is the one to keep Masham on the map.

Three years on, we have had some success –we received permission from the Transport Minister to have brown tourist signs in principle. We’ve now got signs along the A1(M) local access road and we have brown signs from the north off the motorway itself.

What we have not achieved is brown signs on the northbound carriageway. This is hugely frustrating for me but more importantly for the community and businesses who are affected by the tourists, who would visit, shop and spend money in Masham and the villages and towns beyond, being unaware the area exists or who are unable to find it.

The campaign is not over though – far from it. In the past week I have met with the Transport Secretary and made him aware the situation is still unacceptable. I have also written, once again, to the chief executive of the Highways Agency to urge him to see if there is anything else he can do to help resolve this situation.

With the Tour de France due to pass through Masham next year, the town will be on television screens across the world. When people decide that looks like a place they want to visit, we need to ensure they can do that and the potential economic boost for Masham and the Dales that they would bring doesn’t end up passing us by.

With just 16 months until the world’s biggest cycle race comes through North Yorkshire, we need to ensure we are doing all we can to capitalise on the potential benefits. On Wednesday, March 27, I am going to some of the communities it will be visiting and popping into some of the businesses that will be passed by the race to discuss the opportunities, along with Welcome to Yorkshire.

Follow me on Twitter (@JulianSmithMP ) or visit my website for more details.

Improving communications here, whether broadband or mobile, has been another issue I have spent a lot of time on and it is positive that there has been some progress so far and the potential for much more in the coming months and years.

However, for communities where you can’t get a phone signal I know there are real frustrations.

I have recently been raising this issue on behalf of a number of constituents in parts of Ripon and Nidderdale. The telecoms companies have promised to invest in rural areas and I want to hold them to that, so if you’re having problems with reception and want me to ask for answers from them, just get in touch.

On that issue, during the last month the 4G licences started to be awarded. I am pleased that there is a commitment with those licences that more rural communities have to be covered. It was a strategic decision to balance the cash payment for these licences with stringent coverage obligations and the fact we achieved that is a big win for our rural economy.

Finally, you will have read in the past month that Judith Donovan is stepping down as chairman of GRIP (Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership). I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to her for her tireless hard work and dedication to improving Ripon. The Eden Project, where she will be a board member, is lucky to have her.