UKB Networks and Swindon Borough Council have responded to the leaflets being circulated by community groups regarding the ongoing broadband situation in North and rural Swindon.
The ‘NoToSwindon4G’ group are distributing the literature publicising their belief that the council are wasting £2m of tax payers money on an ‘out-dated’ system of 4G monopoles, that will deliver the broadband signal to receiver boxes placed on customers homes.
They believe that the monopoles, which are being discussed before a planning committee at the Civic Offices from 5:30pm on Tuesday 9 February, are being “forced” upon them and that the community is being treated with “contempt”.
Council reports on the placement of the monopoles have already recommended that two of the planned five stations, at Polonez Court and Eastbury Way, should not be given planning permission. You can read the council reports here.
UKB Networks have released the following statement on the leaflet, which you can see below:
Accusation from pamphlet: The masts will be 15m high, over twice the height of the average two-storey house.
Response: “The masts we plan to use in North Swindon are monopoles that look like lamp posts. They are 15m high but far less noticeable than normal 4G masts and less invasive to install than digging up roads and pavements that Fibre Optic cables would require.”
Accusation from pamphlet: The masts are not out of the way on Thamesdown Drive like other 4G masts.
Response: “We considered locating the masts along Thamesdown Drive, however in order to deliver superfast broadband of at least 24mbps in line with the BDUK requirements for superfast broadband, in the entire intervention area we need to put up masts in the specifically selected locations.”
Accusation from pamphlet: Our communities are being treated with contempt, being forced to have these huge masts right next to our homes, schools, and shops.
Response: “Prior to full public consultation, as part of the official planning process we consulted with the Head Teachers of local schools in North Swindon in July 2015. All those whom we heard back from responded positively about our plans. In addition we then contacted the ward councillors in October 2015 and held a meeting to explain our proposal. Once we decided on the final site locations, based on feedback from Highways and further site visits to minimise the impact of the masts we once again spoke with the local schools and we presented to Ward Members and Residents at the Localities meeting in North Swindon in December. The Localities meeting with the public was open to all of the 7,600 homes in North Swindon and we received positive feedback from attendees that they were more assured about the plans and had an increased understanding of what it all meant.”
Accusation from pamphlet: What is worse, the residents of North Swindon were NOT consulted about this scheme.
Response: AS ABOVE “Prior to full public consultation, as part of the official planning process we consulted with the Head Teachers of local schools in North Swindon in July 2015. All those whom we heard back from responded positively about our plans. In addon we then contacted the ward councillors in October 2015 and held a meeting to explain our proposal. Once we decided on the final site locations, based on feedback from Highways and further site visits to minimise the impact of the masts we once again spoke with the local schools and we presented to Ward Members and Residents at the Localities meeting in North Swindon in December. The Localities meeting with the public was open to althe 7,600 homes in North Swindon and we received positive feedback from attendees that they were more assured about the plans and had an increased understanding of what it all meant.”
Accusation from pamphlet: It will not deliver the high speed broadband we need, and will also delay the arrival of fibre broadband to the area. We could be stuck without superfast broadband for years.
Response: Our technology is proven to work and currently being used in Chiseldon to great effect. In fact Paul Walton, of the Chiseldon Parish Council, says it has transformed how his family uses the internet and that they are now getting download speeds of 45mb. It is also in use in Italy by 200,000 people and Ireland where 100,000 people currently use it. UK Broadband’s new Outdoor Unit will have speeds of at least 24mbps in line with the BDUK requirements for superfast broadband in the intervention area. This is not an either/or scenario, if it become economically viable to install Fibre Optic (which would require roughly 50% of the population to show support) then we will install it.”
Cllr Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate, Customer and Digital Services, said: “It is disappointing that a group of residents are so opposed to our plan to provide faster, more reliable superfast broadband to more than 19,500 homes within the borough.
“Residents in parts of north Swindon and our rural areas have been without decent broadband coverage for years and this solution will contract UKB Networks to provide superfast broadband speeds of at least 24mbps, which is the minimum requirement of the contract.
“We know from speaking to local residents in north Swindon and the outlying villages that they have extremely poor broadband provision and they cannot wait to receive the service. We haven’t even started our marketing activity but we already have 251 people who have registered for updates on the service via our website www.superfastswindon.com and of those 53 are based in north Swindon.
“More than 1,600 individual people have also visited the website for information and we expect those figures to dramatically increase in the coming months when the service is closer to going live.
“The anonymous leaflet being circulated in north Swindon also says the solution will delay the installation of fibre in the area, yet if enough people take up the service, UKB Networks have publicly stated they will install fibre at their own cost, so a fibre solution will be available to people in north Swindon if there is enough support for the scheme. There is currently no guarantee that a fibre provider will come forward to provide superfast broadband in the absence of the Superfast Swindon network.”
Harriet Maltby, a Priory Vale resident said: “It is disappointing that both the Cabinet Member Mary Martin and UKB Networks still think that a bare-minimum service is acceptable to residents.
“24mbps may meet a minimum requirement, but it is already dwarfed by fibre services over 8 times faster. It does not meet the current need of the community, and it certainly won’t meet future need. Nor does a vague promise of fibre at some point in the next decade.
“This is reflected in the fact that less than 1% of the community have registered for information on the new scheme. As for consultation, when the planning applications were originally submitted, major objections were raised by the community, but other than in Oakhurst, UKB Networks have paid no attention. They cannot claim that residents did not make their views clear.”
For more information on the planning committee for the 4G masts, visit: http://ww5.swindon.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=281&MId=7021