TWO men who have worked tirelessly for their rural community in South Cumbria have been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of their efforts.

Arthur Robinson, who is secretary of New Hutton Parish Council, and Martyn Welch, who is the parish council’s chair, have put in countless hours of voluntary work for the B4SW scheme which has enabled residents in the parishes of New Hutton, Old Hutton and Preston Patrick access to high speed broadband in the parish.

“The news came out of the blue and I didn’t expect anything like that,” said Dr Robinson.

“But this award is really for all the many volunteers who have worked so hard to make this project a success as well as the landowners who have allowed us to carry out such vital work.”

The project has enabled around 500 homes in the area to be able to access high speed broadband with the last few properties involved now being connected, and Dr Robinson said it had already proved an invaluable service, attracting new businesses to set up and also enabling local schoolchildren to do their homework online.

Cllr Hazel Hodgson, who represents the area on South Lakeland District Council, said Dr Robinson and Mr Welch were hugely respected in the area and had put in many hours of voluntary work on the B4SW project as part of a volunteer group affectionately known as ‘Dad’s Army’ due to their ages.

“It’s a well deserved honour for both men as they have worked so hard for this wonderful project,” said Cllr Hodgson.

Three other people with strong local connections were also included on the honours list.

Robert Shephard, who is chair of Patterdale Parish Council, was awarded an OBE for his services to the environment and to the community in the Cumbrian village, and Professor Stephen Eames. chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has been made a CBE for his services to the NHS.

In addition, Professor Richard Welbury, who is an Honorary Consultant at North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, where he carries out clinical work, has been made a CBE for “services to paediatric dentistry, dental education and safeguarding of children.”

The 64-year-old said he was “stunned and humbled” to receive the honour.