It is perhaps unsurprising that after months of isolation, and having discovered the feasibility of working from home, more town and city-dwellers are considering a move to the countryside. The countryside promises cleaner air, vast open expanses and an abundance of natural life. Some polls suggest that as many as 40 percent of all prospective house-buyers are looking to relocate to rural areas.

But many of these planned moves rest on the assumption that working from home will be as easy in the countryside as it is in the city. All too often, this is not the case. If the Covid-19 crisis has made plain how much our economic life relies on technology and digital skills, it has also highlighted the yawning divide in connectivity between our urban and rural areas. I know people living in rural “not spots”, who try and find key areas with 4G signal to take important calls or share large documents, be that at the end of the garden or driving to the top of a hill. This divide contributes to the lower productivity in rural areas, which sits at 16 percent below the national average.

It’s estimated that nearly half a million rural homes have poor or slow broadband. We welcome the agreement struck between the Government and mobile operators, which entails sharing the cost of phone masts as part of a £1 billion plan to end poor mobile coverage in the countryside, but what matters now is delivery. The reality, as it stands, is that 4G adds £75 billion to the UK economy every year and yet only 66 percent of rural areas have good coverage.

In order to really ensure that the UK has full connectivity by 2025, there needs to be a continual improvement and widening of mobile coverage. Therefore, hard interim targets must be set within the Government’s and mobile operators’ Shared Rural Network agreement. The UK countryside has been left behind, time and time again. This has to end now.

Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses.