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Ed Vaizey Calls on Councils to Push Superfast Broadband for New Builds

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 (4:52 pm) - Score 970
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The UK Government’s Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, has made public a copy of the letter that he recently distributed to local authorities across England. The letter itself appears to encourage council leaders to ensure that new build housing developments include provision for superfast broadband connectivity.

Sadly we’ve had to report on a lot of large new build projects, many of which often fail to ensure a good level of superfast broadband availability. In some cases a few developments have even struggled to get working phone lines sorted in time for the first residents (examples here, here and here).

Some local authorities, such as Cheltenham Borough Council in Gloucestershire (England), are putting in more effort to ensure that property developers take better account of the need for fast broadband, but this is by no means universal. Similarly Ed Vaizey has previously said: “You wouldn’t move into a brand new house in 2014/2015 and not expect to get superfast broadband. It is unacceptable.”

As such it will come as no surprise to find that the Digital Economy Minister has now joined with Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, in order to give the issue a bit more coverage.

DCMS Letter to Council Leaders of English Local Authorities

PROVISION OF HIGH-SPEED BROADBAND CONNECTIONS FOR COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL NEW BUILDS

We are writing to you today about the vital role local planning authorities have in supporting the rollout of superfast broadband when developing and updating Local Plans and considering planning applications.

Advanced high quality superfast broadband is essential for sustainable economic growth. Government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to bring superfast broadband to 95% of the United Kingdom by 2017.

As Council Leaders, you have a crucial role to play in supporting this ambitious target through your Local Plans and when considering planning applications to ensure wherever possible commercial and residential new builds are able to access superfast broadband. The policy on this is set out in Section five of the National Planning Policy Framework and as such is a material consideration when determining planning applications.

The Framework also requires local planning authorities, in preparing and reviewing Local Plans to work with providers to assess the quality and capacity of infrastructure of strategic priority in your area and its ability to meet forecasted demands. Policy places the provision of telecommunications alongside other key infrastructure such as roads and utilities.

I am placing a copy of this letter in the Library of the House of Commons.

BRANDON LEWIS MP
ED VAIZEY MP

It’s a reasonable first attempt, although the looming General Election probably means that many councillors will be far too busy focusing their attentions elsewhere to notice.

Meanwhile a forthcoming EU requirement will mean that, from 2017, all new buildings need to be “high-speed broadband ready“. But the Home Builders Federation, whose members in England and Wales deliver around 80% of the new homes each year, has already warned that such a policy could “seriously damage” future construction (here).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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3 Responses
  1. Avatar adslmax

    But will all councils agree? Nope!

  2. Avatar Jonas

    Parish councils can and some have been making the provision of highspeed broadband as part of their neighborhood plan and therefore a condition on the planning consent for new homes. Uppingham Council in Rutland have done this very successfully.

    Hyperoptics, ITS and others are also making great progress of working with developers to delopy a the point of construction rather than retro fit.

    More councils should adopt the same approach as the forward thinking Uppingham.

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