Broadband update 4

This is the latest email we have received regarding broadband roll out – this one is specific to The Orchard but the principle applies elsewhere. Clearly there are still some issues to be dealt with regarding telegraph poles, since on many streets without poles, overhead cabling is prohibited by property deeds.

Back to the drawing board it would seem.

Message:

Upon initial discussions with Cllr Wilkes, we agreed that works would be placed on hold until the necessary communications had been completed, and that we had double checked the reports of existing ducting. 

We agreed that we would review the reports of an underground network to the The Orchards, and other areas of concerns that had been raised. I can confirm that this has been completed, and the network in the area is direct buried, which means we are unable to use this for access to the properties. My apologies for the confusion, as I appreciate this was advised by the contractors completing the installations. This has been handled accordingly. 

As we are unable to use existing infrastructure, the next step was communication to the residents. All residents will receive a letter of notice before the works take place.

We have addressed and apologised for the lack of initial contact as fully accept this was a mistake on our behalf, and do be assured it has been handled and actioned internally. 

Moving forward all residents in poled areas, will receive a letter from us prior to build commencing. I understand that contractors were working in the area this week, on the telegraph poles that have already been installed, and apologise for any confusion that this has caused. 

We want to use our investment to improve the connectivity for homes and businesses in County Durham, however the method of installation can be completed in many forms. Most of which would be repeated by other providers should they have chosen to connect the area. 

Due to the existing infrastructure, the best method of connection for your community is via overhead network. 

Arnison Centre Chaos now dangerous

The chaos at the Arnison Centre today has been caused by queuing for McDonalds. Whilst this is not directly McDonald’s fault they should have recognised that queues were causing a problem and acted to close the drive thru.

The site owners and the Council are entirely to blame for this issue. They were told not to allow McDonalds expansion. They were told not to expand the site without an additional exit. And for twelve months we have been telling them to fix the issue. Instead they’ve been arguing over whether an extra exit lane needs planning permission.

Sovereign Centros which owns the site, Workman which manage it and Durham County Council need to bang their heads together and come up with a solution now.

For elderly residents to be stranded in their cars for 45 minutes and buses delayed by just as long is unacceptable.

If emergency vehicles needed access to the site or the surrounding roads they wouldn’t be able to.

We have written to the police and council today

And also to the site owners and management company demanding urgent action before someone needing medical attention finds an ambulance can’t get to them.

Telegraph Poles for Broadband update

During discussions last night about the installation of poles on specific streets in the Gilesgate area it became clear that the company is opting for a consulation approach with four possible outcomes.

  1. If the existing infrastructure, once reviewed, going underground without major works it will be used.
  2. If existing infrastructure cannot be used, residents will be consulted on a street by street basis. If people are happy with the poles they will be used.
  3. If residents are not happy they will be removed, however in this case it is likely that to get the superfast broadband there will be a connection charge to anyone wanting the superfast broadband in that street, which could be significant (up to £200 estimate). Some additional offers could be made such as longer fixed price contracts.
  4. If no one wants to pay this then the final option is that the company does nothing.

We have asked for meeting specific to our area to discuss individual streets, and have confirmation that everyone will be properly consulted and if the majority do not want poles it will not happen, however we need to address various questions about this option.

One thing which is clear is that any other company could come in at any time and if they wanted to install equipment regardless of public views which whilst unacceptable, is the law.

We will update again soon on progress with removal of existing poles and consultation.

Broadband update 3

A further meeting has now been arranged with the broadband company for Monday.

In the coming days you may see company representatives reviewing work in the area. Do not be concerned as this is part of the challenge we have made and they are looking at what may be able to be done as alternatives to these awful new poles.

however as previously said, if anyone sees any poles going up or kit being installed on them please let us know immediately as whilst we have had assurances, I don’t think anyone is entirely trusting of the company right now.

Broadband Pole update

This evening I have held a meeting with other councillors and the Director of Netomnia/YouTube to discuss the insrallation of telegraph poles for superfast broadband which have been installed without consultation.

All roll-out is on hold and the company are now reviewing the situation as a result of the discussions to decide the next way forwards.

Broadband Column issues

We’ve been contacted today and by a number of residents complaining about new Telegraph poles going up.

I’ve had several conversations with the managing director of Youfibre fibre today regarding this and the rollout of these new columns is being suspended.

On some streets it would appear the columns are going up where they are 100% not necessary because cabling is already fully grounded.

Please be assured we are on the case however should a new column go up near you please call us immediately .

Brasside Road safety Scheme

A project to improve access for pedestrians to Brasside will start next week.

Widening of the footpath under the East Coast Mainline bridge will make it far safer for people to get in and out of Brasside.

This is something that we have wanted to improve for many years and the recent spike in people getting out and about and walking this way to access cycle and walking paths made it even mroe essential.

The plan which is a three month trial to see what the impact is on road users, will include sensor traffic lights for motorists driving in to and out of the village. They will be timed to ensure reduced delays at peak periods.

All residents in the surrounding area are receiving letters explaining the scheme.

Let us know how it works (or doesn’t). The more people confirm their support or otherwise for this once installed the better as it will help us evaluate the success.

Grants for previously exempt businesses

Over the last year we have raised concerns that people working from home or not able to get grants for other reasons have been struggling.

I’m please to say that we have been listened to and the County Council has approved a new scheme to provide those who have missed out with some additonal grant funding from the money provided by government:

The new scheme will offer support for mobile and home-based businesses, that operate in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sectors or its supply chain, or those providing in person or face to face services, which have been significantly impacted by the restrictions and have fixed monthly business costs.

As part of the application process businesses will be asked to:

·            Demonstrate fixed business-related costs of at least £100 a month, these must be integral to the running of their business and does not include personal salary costs or rent / mortgage costs;

·            Evidence that the business provides the majority of the applicant’s income (over 50%);

·            Demonstrate that they have been severely impacted by local and/or national restrictions;

·            Evidence they were trading on 18 September 2020; and

·            Demonstrate that they have not received or are eligible for a previous grant payment from the council.

The scheme provides for the following level of support as a one off payment:

·                £100 to £200 fixed costs per month, they would receive a £500 one off payment

·                £200 to £400 fixed costs per month, they would receive a £1,000 one off payment

·                Fixed costs of more than £400 per month, they would receive a £2,500 one off payment

Our website has been updated with a holding statement to reflect these changes and full details on eligibility and how to apply will be available on there by Friday 26 March, accessible via this link: http://www.durham.gov.uk/covid19businessgrants. There will be an online application process for applicants to submit details to support their application in line with the requirements set out above.

We will be reviewing the scheme take up and funding on 12 April 2021, in line with the first key milestone in relation to restrictions for businesses starting to be lifted.