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Derbyshire Broadband ISP Gets into Trouble for its Tall Peak District Erection

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 (5:11 pm) - Score 1,301
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Around 300 homes in the Peak District National Park (central England) could be about to lose access to an 80Mbps capable superfast fixed wireless broadband network because of a planning dispute, which exists between local ISP Derbyshire Broadband and the park authority.

The issue centres on the erection of a fairly inconspicuous 3.5 metre tall antenna, which was installed in the High Peak area during February 2017 as part of a £100,000 community project. A report on the BBC states that the antenna was installed on Colin Hanson-Orr’s land (a local farmer), following discussions with the park’s planners and on the grounds that it was within the government’s own planning guidance.

However, the park authority states that they had only offered “general” advice and the project’s original inquiry related to an area that wasn’t inside of the national park. Meanwhile Mr Hanson-Orr, who has been given 28 days to remove the installation, describes the situation as “ludicrous” and notes that there have been “no objections” from local people to the antenna.

One small ray of hope has at least been offered by the director of the Peak District National Park Authority, John Scott, who claims that he wants to work with the ISP in order correct the “misunderstanding.” Scott proposes to do this by striking a balance between the need for fast broadband and looking after the landscape, although moving the antenna could affect its coverage and potentially make it unviable.

The authority claims to have written to the ISP in April 2017 but never got a response, although the provider denies ever having received such a letter. Customers who subscribe to the service can pay from £15 per month for a 20Mbps (5Mbps upload) package with a 30GB usage allowance, which goes up to £75 for the top unlimited 80Mbps (10Mbps upload) option. A one-off installation charge of £149 (12 month contract) or £199 (30 day contract) is also applied.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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29 Responses
  1. Steve Jones

    Really. Just 3.5 metres? I’m amazed that anybody gets much reception for that unless it’s on top of a very steep peak.

    Are we sure it isn’t 35 metres? That would make more sense.

    • Matt

      There’s a picture of it in the BBC article Steve. It is indeed ~11ft – a real storm in a teacup.

    • To Steve and. Matt, we hadn’t thought about using a tea cup, but I’ll look into it
      It’s at 1200 ft, so looks with clear LOS back to Manchester, 16 miles, and across a long valley covering literally hundreds of properties, all with sub 2mb broadband. It’s a node in the network, as we have leased lines in Manchester, Sheffield, and somewhere else, feeding several access points, which then feed onto groups as small as 5 properties. Our engineer has figured out a very clever way of creating micro access points which let us economically get to pretty much anywhere. Now. For instance Peak Forest, which has been shamefully abandoned by you know who, after getting together in a community project, and paying for fibre, which stopped before it reached them. We’ve now got the village running with superfast, partially by defying the law of physics, and creating an LOS which ignores topography and heavy woodland. In all seriousness, this isn’t a storm in a teacup though, if Peak Park get away with this, it will set back rural broadband by years.

  2. I’m the farmer – and partner in Derbyshire Broadband – named. It’s 3.5 metres, on a scaffolding pole, and one access point we use. We have written evidence from Peak Park, of correct procedure in February, confirming permitted development under TCPA. They wrote to me Sept 6th. claiming it was my private broadband, with a 28 day takedown notice. I politely pointed them to their own February email, at which point they went into meltdown, and insisted that even though the access point was clearly a company installation, and unfortunately their own guidance had been “incorrect”. The original enquiry was quite site specific, as we aren’t daft enough to ring Peak Park to enquire about places that aren’t in the Peak Park. They – we have this in writing – then demanded the removal of the access point on the grounds that they had given us the wrong advice, and as we’d followed it, permitted development no longer applied, so we’d have to apply for planning permission which they’d reject. As I say, all in writing. We again politely asked them what on earth they were talking about, and were met with more threats and bluster. At which point we thought the rest of the UK had better know that planners now had higher powers than government, religion, or even Jose Mourinho, to change legislation on the fly, and ignore quite specific government guidance. Strangely, after the BBC broadcast, and that may not be the end of it, Peak Park are claiming “it’s a misunderstanding”. No, it isn’t, it’s a naked power grab. They want to meet with us now, although remarkably they ignored my requests for a meeting until yesterday. Our network is a community led project, which has succeeded in bringing proper broadband to hundreds in the Park, for many it’s been life-changing (in a good way), we aren’t perfect, but we are honest, and delivering 80/20 connections, with significantly higher speeds trialling now.
    We’ve worked tirelessly for two weeks and routed around the disputed site, to protect our existing customers, but if we do lose the site, it severely degrades our ability to continue expansion at the current rate. If there’s any legal reading this with a view, or any other providers who are likely to suffer the same problems, please contact us, we are fighting this for all of us.

    • Optimist

      Can you vote out the members of the Park Authority?

    • Henry

      @Optimist – of the 30 members of the Peak District National Park Authority, 16 are nominated by local county, district and unitary authorities, 6 are nominated by the Secretary of State from local parish councillors, and 8 are nominated by the Secretary of State because of their specialist expertise. But, as you might expect, most of the work is done by employees of the authority

    • Optimist

      @Colin and @Henry
      You can do something about those on the authority who are councillors, by standing the next time there is a vacancy on their council. Candidates have to live or work in the council area except for parish councils, where you can be up to three miles outside the parish.

      Very often parish councils are run by a clique, and they tend to keep quiet when there is a vacancy so they can get one of their pals on by co-opting, but the signatures of ten electors in the ward is sufficient to trigger a by-election.

      So keep an eye on the websites of the parish councils and of the district councils for details of vacancies. You can also use a service called http://www.changedetection.com to alert you when a web page changes.

      Then give ’em a run for their money!

  3. All the elected officials – councillors – in the Peak Park have been copied in on the correspondence, not one of them has had the decency to even acknowledge the emails. Really serving the community – not.
    At this stage I need to be careful, but I can assure you that government representatives, and so-called rural organisations (please forgive the ISIS terminology), have offered zero assistance. They all profess concern and will have “called for” action, but they actually just perpetuate the status quo, and help the billions flow into the pockets of the usual beneficiaries. As a community group that has – really – cracked the problems, what I can say, is that if “contempt of councillors” was in the criminal code, I’d get a life sentence…..

  4. David Lewis

    Could the next ISP awards have a category of “Succeeded in delivering broadband despite official opposition”?

  5. Andy Smith

    HI Colin
    What you and the guys at Derbyshire Broadband are doing is bloody marvellous, i live in Hayfield and can only get 1.5mbps
    with Bt as the cabinet is full.
    I want to use your service but if these petty minded functionaries get in the way what hope is there for the future of rural broadband
    Keep up the good work
    Cheers
    Andy

  6. Matthew Roberts

    I think this objection from the Park is a disgrace. What Colin Hanson-Orr and the team have done is absolutely fantastic. They have bought the 21st century to residents who, without them, wouldn’t of experienced fast broadband for years. I am hoping to benefit from Derbyshire Broadbands services when it comes to my area (which I’m hoping will be very soon) and I want to help as much as I can to get this ridiculous objection quashed. It is absolutely ludicrous and I call upon everyone in the High Peak community to write to your local mp, ruth.george.mp@parliament.uk and voice your disgust at the objection. Through Derbyshire Broadband high speed broadband will bring increased jobs and productivity to residents and businesses throughout our County which they so desperately need. Well done once again to all at Derbyshire Broadband

    • Thank you Matthew, much appreciated, however I can report that since the BBC broadcast, things have started moving in a slightly less threatening way. I’ve been contacted by the Peak Park CEO, and we are meeting here (at the farm) with Digital Derbyshire, Peak Park, and ourselves, on 5th October, to “resolve the problem”. I can’t be sure that this is a resolution, and the damage and cost to our business has been considerable, but we can survive and thrive with or without this access point. To be fair to the CEO, he appears to be genuinely willing to meet us, if not half way, at least some of the way, and the 28 day enforcement is no longer in force. Digital Derbyshire (part of Derbyshire County Council) have been great to work with, and are basically dedicated – and I do mean dedicated – individuals who have worked tirelessly to get “not spots” sorted. They’ve had to swallow all sorts of you-know-who unfulfilled promises, but we’ve established a great relationship with them, to everybody’s benefit. As for the people you suggest contacting, I can tell you that if their support was a bridge, you wouldn’t want to drop a feather on it. Thanks again, once we get back on track, we are accelerating the installation areas, so put an application in, which helps us map out the network build, and we will be with you very soon.

  7. Graham

    http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/planning/advice/do-i-need-permission

    Looks fairly obvious you need planning permission from this. You’ve changed use of land from agriculture to running a communications business.

    Suggest you find a good lawyer who deals with planning.

    • Thanks Graham, but the TCPA and subsequent amendment relevant is telecom and broadband specific, changing the installation regs to permitted development. It’s beautifully explained here (Lewes Council)
      3. Permitted Development that requires Prior Approval

      Development that complies with the requirements of the GPDO, is permitted development. However if the development falls within one of the following categories an application for prior approval is required from the Local Planning Authority:

      The prior approval procedure applies to, the construction, installation, alteration or replacement of:

      A ground based mast of up to and including 15 metres in height
      A mast of up to and including 15 metres in height installed on a building or structure
      An antennae (including any supporting structure) which exceeds the height of the building or structure (other than a mast) by 4 metres or more at the point where it is installed or to be installed
      A public call box
      Radio equipment housing with a volume of 2.5 cubic metres
      Development ancillary to radio equipment housing (for example, fences or access roads)
      Furthermore any development on Article 2(3) land (e.g. National Park, Conservation Area) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) also require an application for prior approval, unless the development is in relation to fixed line broadband equipment where Prior Approval is not required.

      You’ll note the last sentence, however we did contact them to give notice, in February, and ask if they required anything else for Peak Park, they replied – in writing – “no”. The subsequent problem arose when they wrote to tell us that their original,advice had been “incomplete”, and therefore we hadn’t provided an approval request, so permitted development now needed planning permission that they wouldn’t grant, because we’d followed their advice. I believe that legally we are a fixed wireless broadband provider, so virtually every aspect of this argument boils down to semantics. Several hundred people receiving broadband from our access points would agree that we are (registered as such, and BDUK accredited) a fixed wireless broadband supplier. I’m just about to post another reply, which moves this along, but thanks for joining the discussion.

  8. Pissy 0.8mbps Broadband customer

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/broadband-delivery-uk

    “Overview
    Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is delivering superfast broadband and local full fibre networks to the nation.

    The Government is supporting investment to:

    provide superfast broadband coverage to 95% of the UK by December 2017
    provide access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all”

    Bollocks…

    Rural areas especially here in the Peak are running mega fast 0.8mbps speed on a good day!!

    Are we getting the proposed lighting fast 2mbps in the next 3 months before the end of 2017 – I dont think so.

    The Peak need to get real and understand in this day and age people /communities NEED to be connected to fast BB for a multitude of reasons (kids need it for research/homework as an example) and if that means erecting a small pole barely viewable and having had no negative comments from anyone then so be it. What the hell does it interfere with.

    From the Peak planning site:

    Did you know?

    You may be surprised to learn that the following changes could need planning permission:

    digging a pond in a field – does that go for paddling pools as well, what if it rains and we get a puddle – who at the peak to I contact to get permission?
    creating a mound in your garden – are you serious – what if my dog shits there – do I need planning for that, he’s a big dog and shits pretty big as well?

    I could rant on all day about the peak and the BS planning rules – wouldn’t allow a bespoke wooden stable block in a private out of site field, no they wanted it built in peak stone at a cost of £!5K.

    Anyway broadband – I’m all for it, the government are clearly doing nothing for the 5% without what they class as good speeds so do what you have to do!

  9. Simon

    I hate the Mendip Transmitter – for the record.

  10. Name

    The absolute eyesores our planning departments allow through, all the plastic doors and windows they make new builds have and all the yellow brick buildings going up and they object to a 11′ mast. Absolute shower of excrement they are.
    I see some phone companies use fake chimneys to hide their masts, can it be disguised as a tree or even maybe bolted to a land rover and called a tempore fixture thus no planning needed. When are everyone going to wake up and realise most of our council officials do not have our villages best interests at heart. I’m sure if you made a donation to their Xmas party you would get planning, the likes of Robinson seem to get away with whatever they want to do.

  11. MikeW

    Colin,

    Remember that in Devon, Airband won contracts with CDS to cover both the Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks. From progress reports, they seemingly had to go through planning permission.

    CDS were reporting into the Devon CC “Places Scrutiny” committee until March, but that got disbanded. Now there seems to be a “Broadband & Mobile Phone Connectivity Task Group” made of councillors).

    Perhaps you could seek some help from there, to get some hints for how the county worked with the national parks.

    North Yorkshire had a couple of the market trials in their two national parks, with Airwave, which required masts to go through planning too. I recall there was a notion of a temporary, 3 year, approval.

    • Thanks Mike, but the subsequent legislation is quite clear, that it’s all “permitted development”. There’s a grey area in which “approval” needs to be sought, but Lewes council have done a very good job of sorting the words out of “Sir Humphrey” speak:

      Furthermore any development on Article 2(3) land (e.g. National Park, Conservation Area) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) also require an application for prior approval, unless the development is in relation to fixed line broadband equipment where Prior Approval is not required.

      Fixed wireless broadband, as far as I know, is thus defined. We asked the Peak Park planners office in February “what they required”, they sent us exactly the same info as Lewes have online (http://www.lewes.gov.uk/1958.asp

      Then out of the blue in September, they suddenly come on with first an insistence that the installation is my private residential service – they hadn’t connected the initial response – then upon being corrected, and referred to a copy of their own departments email, they decided that their advice had been “incomplete” ( most of us would use the word “wrong” on many levels).
      We meet with them on Oct 5th, and I hope, that recent much more conciliatory emails are an indication that they may have decided a resolution in the interests of the people of the Peak Park, is what we should all be trying for. We’ve solved the problem with or without this access point, but if it does have to go. It severely slows down our potential roll-out, which could have had over a 1,000 sorted by Christmas.

  12. David Lewis

    So, what has happened? Have the bureaucrats seen sense?

    • We are still in a fight. The Peak Park now claim that GPDO reference to “Fixed Line Broadband” doesn’t include the word “wireless”, so it doesn’t apply. It’s nonsense, and we are just nailin* that one as well ( it’s now referred to in government papers as “fixed broadband infrastructure”. )
      We have some ammunition we haven’t used yet, so we will win, but it’s been an education. The MP supported the planners, Karen Bradley’s office has still not answered after numerous calls and emails, organisations like the NFU really lived up to their title, in fact, just like getting decent broadband, you really are on your own. What’s been missed in all this, is that the technology we’ve developed, really does get seriously fast (80 -100mb) broadband to any rural property, cheaply and quickly. We’ve had terrific media coverage, as a result, we are now helping other community groups to build networks. One group (77 residents) applied to the BT community partnership scheme, and were told they needed to contribute £ 383,000.00 to get an FTTP system.
      The whole process stinks, and the establishment is firmly ensconced at the trough – we will update here as soon as we can tell you more. And there is more.

  13. Andrew Doyle

    I am amazed that the Peak Planners waste taxpayers money on such trivial points and appear to have no accountability. The Government are devoting huge resources to improving infrastructure and broadband is no longer a luxury. Fibre is simply not an option in outlying communities and never will be. These wireless masts are totally unobtrusive. The Peak District is to be treasured by all but is not a museum and this attitude will delegate the area totally to well heeled residents using the park as a dormatory and removing any natural support to the region from small businesses locals who work in the Park and forward thinking entrepeneurs.Of course the planners have a serious role but get real and concentrate on real issues not this nonsense.

  14. Andy Smith

    HI Colin
    i managed to talk to Ruth George MP for the High Peak at Hayfields Apple Day last Saturday she was aware of the situation
    and said she will looking it further i hope this helps
    cheers
    Andy Smith

    • That would be the MP who didn’t respond to calls/emails until the BBC got interested, then came along to be interviewed clearly not having done anything other than call the planners office to get wrong information that she was intending to use in their support, and then announced she wasn’t getting into a “he said, she said” argument, when handed a copy of the relevant information from GPDO Section 16 A(2) clause 5.
      The same MP who has since then stayed conspicuously silent, other than to ask a question in the House, regarding the imminent ending of the BDUK subsidy scheme – “Hey Ruth, as the only provider in the Peak Park actually delivering super-fast is being impeded by your pals in Bakewell, what’s the point of that?”
      Thanks for the intervention Andy, but i have long since stopped wasting energy on the establishment lot – we need to ask why these people are so keen to stop a successful community project, succeeding with an environmentally friendly, ecologically sound, microwave solution based on virtually invisible infrastructure. We delivered a 250mb dl WiFi hotspot to Hayfield country show (foc as we really are a community project), BT can’t even deliver 1mb connections to the local villages. Perhaps in 5 years or so, they will be able to build lots of poles and cabinets, power infrastructure, road closures, across the Park, with no hassle at all. To deliver a much worse service, for which vast amounts of public money will flow.
      There’s a very nice parliamentary document “impact assessment” on broadband planning requirements, Nov 2016, introducing a permanent status (sunsettng) to the GPDO Section 16, which is unequivocal in stating that no planning approval is needed for our infrastructure, as the current 5 year derogation (ends April 2018) applies to “fixed broadband infrastructure”. So this whole pantomime is without any legal, or moral, basis. But we have contingency which will “shock the world”

  15. Andy Smith

    That brilliant we who are miffed with BT Etc and Open Reach who do nothing for the rural communities are right behind you
    keep going and shock the world
    cheers
    Andy Smith

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