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Oops – Openreach UK Put Full Fibre Pole Through Village Sewer

Friday, July 3rd, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 7,583

Residents in the rural Pembrokeshire (Wales) village of Nolton Haven were last week left with a smelly problem after a team of Openreach (BT) engineers, which have been busy deploying Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband in the area, managed to install one of their telegraph poles through a mains sewer.

Sometimes even the best civil engineers make a stinky mistake, although it’s rarely quite as literal as this one. Nolton Haven itself is a typically picturesque hamlet that sits along the coast of St Bride’s Bay and as such it’s rather lucky to be getting a “full fibre” broadband ISP network. We assume this is part of BT’s latest contract with the Welsh Government (here and here).

However the deployment has not been without its problems. For example, locals have complained that the newly installed poles and fibre are “unsightly against the cliffs and beach.” The work has also damaged some existing copper lines, which briefly left two elderly people without the ability to contact anybody (no mobile signal where they live).

The latest mishap, which occurred last week, is that Openreach seemingly managed to install one of their new poles directly through the mains sewer. Residents who tried to complain about this then found it difficult to contact the operator’s Project Manager, who they say always seemed to be unavailable.

Comment from Local Resident to ISPreview.co.uk:

“During their work they have installed 6 new poles without planning permission from the national park. They have spanned a large amount of new fibre after spanning fibre 2 years prior, but running out of time to connect it (they apparently can’t use it as it has the wrong date on it!).

They have then installed one of the new poles straight through the mains sewer pipe, which is now causing raw sewerage to contaminate the water way and sea.”

The good news is that the engineers came around last Friday to fix the damage (as pictured below).

An Openreach Spokesperson said:

“We’re in the process of installing, new full fibre broadband in Nolton Haven, which will provide around 100 homes in this remote village with not only some of the fastest speeds in the UK, but also a more reliable future-proof service that will serve their needs for decades to come.

Sometimes – as is the case here – the only viable option to deliver full fibre is to install new equipment. Our engineers installed several new poles, having followed the correct planning process and gained council permission. As the poles cross park land we consulted with Natural Resources Wales to ensure they’re placed as sensitively as possible.

We do our best to carry out work with great care but on this rare occasion the installation of one of our new poles did cause a small crack to a nearby sewer pipe and disrupted service to two local phone lines. Both issues were resolved on the day, with the phone lines reconnected within an hour. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this might have caused.”

In the long run we’d hope that the ability to order a “gigabit-capable” broadband connection in such a small rural location should help to balance against any initial difficulties during the deployment.


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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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22 Responses
  1. qqq says:

    Seems like a s— situation for all involved.

  2. A_Builder says:

    You would think the field team would have noticed the nearby manhole.

    And maybe opened it to do a visual before using the augur to drill down?

    That really isn’t very clever at all and does show an issue with not following standard street works procedures. I suppose we have to be thankful there wasn’t an 11kV cable buried there…..

    1. Optical says:

      You be surprise how often ultilies like gas,water,sewer pipes & electrics arn’t shown,or in totally different location to what is on the map.
      My last place I had someone out to confirm no sewer pipe,where I was putting a drive,way,guess what – I went through a large sewer pipe,& even found manhole buried 1′ down further along my route,yet nothing shown on utilties map…
      Even hit a gas main many years earlier on a job where village has never had gas.

    2. joe says:

      A_Builder I imagine its only this visible after they have dug this area out after the problem….

      Britain is a nightmare of unmarked pipes and cables…

    3. A_Builder says:

      Whilst I agree that the utility maps are close to useless – I do think they could have found it with the GPR OR were recently boating g about using.

      I had one job where an 11kV was shown on the map but when we had a site visit from, then, EDF the technician agreed with me there never had been one there. I guessed what had happened knowing the area well and sure enough it was where I guessed it would be. Frightening really.

    4. Michael Ashworth says:

      We had a main road widened and the contractor managed to break a main underground cable 12 times on a 1/2 mile stretch of road.

      The local utility company have said it would have cost far less to replace all the cable in one go rather than all the fixes.

  3. LBB says:

    Gigash*t-capable broadband?!

  4. AF says:

    Not sure why natural resource Wales are involved. They’re the people who maintain rivers and pollution.
    I think they meant to say National Parks!
    According to the parks, Openreach provided no prior notification and are now potentially requiring full retrospective planning!
    I am curious though, does anyone know if this new fibre can resist trees, becuase openreach state it will be reliable

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Trees aren’t a problem unless the line gets physically broken.

    2. Optical says:

      Well,raw sewage is a high pollution risk to rivers,waterways,etc,so Resource Wales will get involved.

    3. Adam says:

      restrospective planning permission is usual for poling work, standard way of doing it under the telecommunucatioms act.

      With regards to tree rub, it will be a long term issue but not to the same level as with copper. With fiber generally the tree either breaks the tube or it doesnt, with copper theres a whole host of ways they can cause intermittant issues.

    4. Fastman says:


      “During their work they have installed 6 new poles without planning permission from the national park. They have spanned a large amount of new fibre after spanning fibre 2 years prior, but running out of time to connect it (they apparently can’t use it as it has the wrong date on it!).

      probably complained about work stopping earler (2 years ago)
      now complaiing about poles and stuff

      how did they think it was going to be delivered (by faries)

      this stuff is hard and complex to do

      Damned if you do / damned if you dont

  5. AnotherTim says:

    How come they’re lucky enough to get FTTP *and* sewers?

    1. Tim says:

      Yeah crazy.

      I know a house that’s not far from my dads that can’t get broadband, has no mains electricity (they have a generator instead) and no sewer. This is in Kent, an area that you’d think wouldn’t have things so bad.

    2. Optical says:

      Tim: You be surprised how many places there are in the UK still without main electric,mains water,& gas,know of one decent size village that has gas only for first few houses at one end,rest of village nothing,now in the 21st & many places are still in the dark ages.

    3. AnotherTim says:

      I’m fairly lucky – we have water and electricity (most of the time, although I have several UPS as the voltage is somewhat variable). Nearest gas is 4 miles away, nearest sewer a mile. Nearest FTTP is 5 miles as the crow flies (new estate).

  6. tonyp says:

    I remember a holiday in lovely Nolton Haven. Then (1956 I think), to phone home, you had to find the red phone box, put 4d in the slot to call the operator and ask for ‘trunks’ to make a reverse charge call to home. How times change!

  7. Shaun Taylor says:

    I didn’t realise Openreach still had Pole units I thought they had sold them off to contractors years ago.

    1. roberto liberti says:

      They even got hoist drivers, who can’t hang cable proppa

  8. Tally says:

    I didn’t realise Openreach still had Pole units I thought they had sold them off to contractors years ago.

    1. Squidgy says:

      They even have their own civils teams to do digging and duct laying and clear blockage etc.

  9. KL says:

    Any idea which contractor that pictured at the end of the article? With the blue barriers

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