THE founder and chief executive of Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) is set to retire at the end of the year, it has been announced.

Barry Forde has been the driving force of B4RN, which aims to provide fast, fibre optic broadband to rural areas, since day one.

He was responsible for the CLEO network, which provides connectivity to more than 1,000 schools and public sector sites across Cumbria and Lancashire.

In a statement, the directors of B4RN said: “Barry has lived B4RN night and day for more than 10 years, in the course of which he has enjoyed its triumphs and shouldered the burdens associated with leading a mature and unique enterprise.

“Barry will continue to enjoy the future growth and development of B4RN free from the responsibilities that come with the management of any company seeking to flourish.”

The board is overseeing the ongoing process of appointing a successor.

Tom Rigg, B4RN’s chief operating officer, said: “During this time - and despite new lockdown measures - we will continue to deploy network; we will continue to repair it; we will continue to innovate.

“We will move forward to do what it is that we do best: provide next-generation-access, fibre-to-the-home connectivity to our communities.”