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Business Rates Deal Means Cash for West Sussex Gigabit Broadband UPDATE

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 (4:37 pm) - Score 517
fibre optic cables from above

The Crawley Borough Council have announced that West Sussex (England) has been successful in its bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), which means that 75% of business rates collected can now be kept locally. Most of the extra money will go toward Gigabit broadband upgrades.

Previously the local authority could only keep 50% of business rates collected in West Sussex, while the change means that there will be an additional £19.1m retained in the county annually from 2019/20. However the catch, if you can call it that, is this must be spent on improving digital infrastructure (i.e. it cannot be used to help with the council’s financial challenges).

By the sounds of it this funding won’t be used to support the on-going Gigabit West Sussex Project, which has seen Cityfibre working to connect 152 council sites in Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Littlehampton, Shoreham and Worthing to a new Gigabit capable fibre optic network. Local homes and businesses will also benefit.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Crawley Borough Council, said:

“This is good news for the digital infrastructure of the county and, once complete, the ‘spine’ will enable residents and businesses to connect to a full fibre network.

Crawley has the biggest economy in the county and must benefit from this successful bid. However, this money is not extra for individual local authorities and will have very little impact on our finances, which are getting more challenging every year. Much is made of announcements like this but it will have no impact whatsoever on council finance or the services we provide.”

Cityfibre is already known to have started laying the new cable in roads and footpaths around the Crawley and Chichester areas for their own project. Meanwhile today’s news stated that a digital “spine” will be created alongside railway lines, to avoid digging up roads (i.e. this will run along the Arun Valley railway line, from Ford to Three Bridges, the Brighton Mainline from Three Bridges to Brighton, and a coastal route from Brighton to Ford).

A full fibre network will then be laid from which “residents and businesses can access gigabit broadband.” Cityfibre has separately confirmed that their joint 1Gbps FTTH broadband network with UK ISP Vodafone would also be making its way into Crawley (here), although they have yet to announce how long that deployment phase will take or how much extra investment will be committed to the local area.

UPDATE 10th Jan 2019

West Sussex Council has confirmed to us that the existing Cityfibre project is independent of the decision taken by MHCLG to allow West Sussex authorities to keep 75% of their business rates towards increasing digital infrastructure in the county.

Apparently a final decision on how the extra money will be spent is to be decided in the coming months, and a range of suppliers will be consulted with to explore options (e.g. deploying a new digital “spine” alongside railway lines).

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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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4 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreBubble

    Interesting that yet more state aid is subsidising CityFibre and monster telco Vodafone in Crawley. Every telco in Christendom is already in play.

    • The public investment here is only going toward helping to provide the Public Sector Network side (anchor tenancy), which is fairly normal as most public services cost public money to run. Meanwhile any expansion beyond that to businesses or homes will make use of the private investment. Vodafone are getting somewhat of a free ride, it’s Cityfibre putting in the cash.

  2. Avatar Joe

    “Much is made of announcements like this but it will have no impact whatsoever on council finance or the services we provide.””

    Assuming they would have spent no money on bb otherwise its money they don’t have to spend

    Rail access sounds potentially a headache.

  3. Avatar davidj

    Excellent news for residents.

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