More than 250 properties in three rural South Lakeland parishes have now been connected to fast broadband as part of an impressive volunteer-led project.

Over the past year 28 miles of broadband trunk-cabling has been laid across New Hutton, Old Hutton and Holmescales and Preston Patrick, connecting homes and businesses.

The project attracted £20,000 in funding from South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) to pay for a fibre broadband hub which controls the fast signals.

A grant from the council’s Locally Important Projects (LIPs) scheme enabled volunteers from Broadband for South Westmorland (B4SW), the organisation which is helping to build the network, to install the special cabinet which is located at New Hutton.

Councillor Peter Thornton, who represents the ward of Whinfell, says the broadband connections are bringing huge benefits to the area.

“It’s wonderful and it’s all been made possible thanks to the hard work of the volunteers, willing landowners and the support of local people.

“Broadband brings modern living into people’s homes, allowing them to enjoy things which many others take for granted, like shopping online and using Skype to keep in touch with family and friends.

“Incredibly, any modern businesses which rely on being online can now locate here and enjoy much faster broadband speeds than in the centre of London,” said Cllr Thornton.

Once connected, rural households and businesses enjoy speeds of 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps).

Martyn Welch, B4SW’s Project Manager, says there are plans to double the number of homes and businesses already connected. Around 500 customers could be enjoying broadband in the three parishes before the end of 2018.

“Virtually everybody wants it. Once connected people think it’s unbelievable. They either react by saying ‘wow’ or ‘that’s incredible’ or with complete silence because they really can’t believe the connectivity is so fast.

“We know of at least three businesses that have deliberately moved here because they knew broadband was coming, which is great for the local economy,” said Martyn.

Arthur Robinson, Secretary of B4SW, says more than 70 volunteers have worked on the initiative so far, many of them happy to get their hands dirty.

“We know we’ve done around 5,200 digging hours, that’s not to mention the hundreds more hours we’ve spent talking to parishioners and landowners and walking the routes taken by the broadband cabling.

“Although we’ve done a lot of work, 13 local landowners have put in the cable duct themselves, villagers have got stuck in and this project has a real community feel to it.

“Neighbouring parishes can be fed from this network in the future, so the potential is incredible,” said Arthur.