More than 20 town and city leaders across the North of England have warned that fibre networks could be needlessly duplicated in some areas and forgotten in others.

The warnings, made in an open letter organised by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, include signatories Sir Richard Leese of Manchester and leaders from Bolton, Chester, Oldham, Tameside, Trafford and Warrington.

“The social and economic advantages unlocked by full fibre investment are immense, and sit alongside the major new and improved transport connectivity which we also need, such as through the Northern Powerhouse Rail network with a city centre Bradford station,” explained Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council.

“These digital networks must be rolled-out as quickly and efficiently as possible if the Northern Powerhouse is to maximise the benefits.

“Through its refresh of the Northern Powerhouse strategy, the Government can show how it will address the weaknesses in the current regime which create waste and inefficiencies.

“They should give Combined Authorities the powers and flexibility on capital funding to deliver this vitally important infrastructure for our businesses and communities.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director Henri Murison added:“The North’s full fibre future is at risk from uncoordinated investment, acting against the interests of business and home customers.

“In some cases, we are seeing the needless duplication of full fibre networks, whilst at the same time other Northern towns and cities with no planned investment risk being left behind on antiquated copper networks – missing out on the huge benefits full fibre brings.

“If we are to close the productivity gap between North and South we need to be attracting businesses to come here and help others grow. Digital connectivity can and must play a major role.”