BUSINESSES could be left on the hard shoulder of the information highway if plans to bring superfast broadband to West Somerset are not sped up, it was claimed this week.

Dozens of firms and homeowners are hit by the lack of coverage in the area, making it difficult to run a fully-functional website or carry out simple household tasks.

Communication giant BT is currently rolling out superfast broadband schemes in many parts of the South-West but West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger says progress in the district is slow.

He said: “Things are going well in Sedgemoor where several parishes have been switched on and more are expected to be switched on in October.

“However, in West Somerset there is very slow progress.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger met with Paul Coles, BT regional manager for the South-West, last week to discuss ways to improve coverage.

He added: “I am asking BT to look at the coastal strip of Mine-head, Dunster, Williton and Por-lock because businesses and people there are missing out.

“Broadband is something we have got to start looking at. Because of the tourism trade, broadband is a vital tool and in Minehead in particular there is grave concern over the lack of it.”

Exmoor National Park has bid for additional funding to help BT extend its coverage when broadband is up and running.

It also rubbished talk of plans to set up its own internet service.

Chief executive Nigel Stone said: “Exmoor is a difficult area to reach due to its terrain and because premises are so far apart.

“Rest assured, we are doing all we can to help bring broadband to the area.”

Loretta Whetlor, who used to run a holiday let in Watchet, was one of the victims of poor internet coverage.

She said: “If I had better broadband I could have used the internet for bookings a lot more.

“I think it would make a great difference to the area if our exchange was digital.”

A spokesperson for Connect-ing Devon and Somerset said broadband has already been rolled out to parts of Crowcombe and Lydeard St Lawrence, with thousands more people to benefit over the next 12 months.