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Openreach Build Fibre Pole in Private Garden Without Permission

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021 (8:08 am) - Score 48,624
telegraph pole high engineer

Openreach (BT) has apologised after their UK engineers, who were busy building a new “ultra fast” Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network in Clackmannanshire (Scotland), installed a 27ft tall telegraph pole in a private garden without permission, and while the owners were out visiting a dying family member.

Telegraph poles are perhaps one of the least loved pieces of modern broadband and phone infrastructure, particularly when they’re erected in locations where none have previously been present. Nevertheless, they are also a fairly cost-effective solution for deploying, or upgrading, a network in an area where the cost of going underground would be too high.

Such poles are usually deployed under Permitted Development (PD) rights, which means that they don’t have to go through the usual planning permissions process and can pop up quite quickly, often without residents getting much of a say in the matter. But any deployment on private land does tend to require prior permission via a legal wayleave agreement.

At this point it’s worth saying that, for all the complaints from those who don’t like them, you can often find plenty of people who would be more than happy to accept the deployment of new poles if it meant gaining access to a full fibre network. In this case the owners of a home in the rural Clackmannanshire town of Alva have no objection to the rollout itself, just where Openreach put one of their poles – slap bang in their private garden.

According to the Daily Record, Mr and Mrs Brown, who received no forewarning of the development, left one morning to visit a dying family member in hospital and returned later to find a new telegraph pole in their garden and obstructing the view from their window.

Mr Brown (61) said:

“We left late morning and there was nothing there and when we got back at tea time there was this telegraph pole, just plonked there in front of my living room window. We knew nothing about it. I was horrified. It’s my garden. I’ve checked the title deeds and it’s definitely my land.”

Naturally Mr Brown wrote to Openreach with a complaint but, despite waiting for 8 long weeks, the operator failed to respond (we’d be pretty darn angry at this too). The issue seems likely to have occurred because the garden is close to a piece of council owned land, although from the pictures (see the Daily Record for those) the boundaries are perhaps not as clear as they could be.

In the past the council actually cut some of the lawn at the edges of the garden for them. But this stopped a few years ago after the local authority confirmed, in writing, that they would no longer do this as it was private land and needed to be maintained by the couple (owners) themselves.

A spokesperson for Openreach said: “Following investigation, we’ve established this pole was put up in error. We’re really sorry and we’re arranging to have it removed.” Despite the apology, it should never have required the owners of the property to go to the press in order to get some movement from the operator. The issue might not have even been noticed had they actually responded to the complaint and recognised their mistake sooner.

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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.
Leave a Comment
50 Responses
  1. Chris Sayers says:

    I would have taken a chainsaw to it, sadly big organisations rarely listen to the little people, only when it becomes a PR issue will they take notice.

    1. David Alexander says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking.

    2. Andy says:

      A chainsaw would have been my second action after giving them 5 days notice to remove it. Corporates are their own worst enemy when it comes to efficient communication with the public. Just too funny that in this case Openreach were unable to communicate with the homeowner!

    3. Katie smith says:

      Don’t say that Openreach if you have them will never come out to your property if they hear of anyone saying that lol

    4. Tony Sly says:

      I’ve got a pole in my garden and I get paid annually for its presence. A legal obligation apparently.

    5. Neil Elphinstone says:

      “Telegraph poles”!!!

      Telegraphy was something of the nineteenth century with it’s last remnant Telex dusspeeting around 1990

      Even then the term was telephone pole. The term telegraph poke ceaces around 1920. For heaven sake used modern terminology to describe 22 century technology.

      The pole pictured is correctly described as a ring type telecommunications distribution pole
      Carrying fibre drop wires. No telegraphy in ste!

    6. Dave Davidson says:

      Clearly you have no idea what it takes to implement a network as vast as this. What the article has failed to highlight is that it was for the purpose of providing someone with a valuable service that I guarantee you would cry and moan about as soon as you couldn’t have it yourself. Just a matter of perspective and clearly you have none. Stick the chainsaw up your arse you pompous prick.

    7. Fastlane256 says:

      I had something similar happen but openreach refused to remove it until we threatened with a lawyer and they hastenly backtracked. A day later and it was gone

    1. FuriousDoris says:

      Lol full on tabloid paper compo face in the pictures.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      It’s already linked in the article above.

    3. Barney says:

      Lots of Pampas Grass on display. Don’t need to say anymore.

  2. The Facts says:

    Fighting to remove it, step too far, furious, horrified, view ruined. Meanwhile Openreach are investigating and will move it 2′ onto the footpath.

    1st world problem.

  3. awelshman says:

    i do remember years ago going on a fault and the pole was in a garden and the only access was down the side of a house but the owner had built an extension over the path so the only way to get a ladder there was to carry it through the extension and access was only wednesday and sunday as they were the owners day off

    1. Summer Is Here says:


      So no access via any neighbours garden/alley ?

    2. Awelshman says:

      No back lane , drive nothing 4 block of 5 houses in a square with all back gardens touching each other and a pole almost in the middle couldnt even reach it from another garden

  4. Mike says:

    Why complain about a free washing line?

  5. Anthony Goodman says:

    If it was me I would ask for free internet for life in compensation. Let them decide if that is worth moving it or not.

  6. Billy Nomates says:

    Openreach failed to respond? Shocking. Well, except for anyone who’s had to deal with them before. For a communications company, they sure are bad at communicating.

  7. Damien says:

    My garden is free if you want to do the same here

  8. Peach says:

    How many poles are put up without complaint! It was probably put up to overcome a buried section.

  9. Michael V says:

    Hilarious. I’d rather a 20 meter Three mast go up in my garden! But I’ll settle with an openrach pole.

  10. Keith Ross says:

    Mistakes happen, by the pictures you’d never know it was private property. Another non issue blown up into a bigger issue than it really is

    1. Mark says:

      I think the point is that yes, mistakes happen and it is how the mistake is handled subsequently that a company should be measured on and in this case, Openreach ignored the issue for weeks on end and so in that case, the negative publicity is warranted.

  11. Mike says:

    I would give them 48 hours to remove it or I would cut it down and send them the bill or if it was not much of an inconvenience just day free calls and broadband for life.

  12. SilvieCat says:

    What’s the betting that Openreach moves it three feet from the current position and use their code powers to plonk it in that council footpath just to the right of it in two of the photos.

    Really,. ‘a few feet from his window’. If I have found the right I&A Brown in the phonebook then it’s at least 30-40 feet away from their property to the footpath that goes between them and the houses opposite.

    1. DI Luther says:


  13. John Borisson says:

    Big compensation coming!That’s Openreach for you. No regards for actual customers.

  14. Chris Sayers says:

    Actually no due diligence carried out, if they had they OR would not have plonked it where they did.

  15. SM says:

    Telegraph Pole on your land (eg: your garden), in return for free and unlimited phone and highest speed broadband available for life (for as long as it’s situated there)…

    …I wonder how many people would have a problem with them then?

  16. Nigel Jones says:

    Just give me full capacity for life. 10 Gbp/s symmetric will do for now

  17. Chris says:

    I would have said you can keep your pole there if I can have free broadband for life if not take it away

    1. From Brum says:

      When I first started designing networks farmers tried that and are now crying because they cannot get service
      Same with people who complained about cabs next to their houses when the neighbors where told why they couldn’t get service

  18. Nd says:

    BT contractors today installed a new pole on top of their copper run, severing all the copper for multiple homes. Never ceases to amaze.

    1. Fibre is cool says:

      Oh well, coppers old, order the fibre

  19. TB says:

    Probably could have been dealt with a bit more promptly but after in the past having to visit some complaints about the BT network its not always obvious which ones justify sending someone to investigate..
    Low (electricity) cables, doors wide open on the local cable TV cabinet, rattling lids on drainage manholes, and the most confusing one..pole is making a humming sound (it wasn’t)

  20. The Facts says:

    To all these people saying provide free broadband for life etc. Openreach don’t supply broadband to end users.

    1. Stephen Barnes says:

      Do not
      Not don’t

  21. Keith says:

    What they could have done is billed Openreach rental for having their pole on their land through a solicitor, say £100 per week. They are obliged to pay until they reposition the pole or receive permission.

    1. Chris says:

      They have set rates of poles in garden and it’s no worth the effort if having something like £12 a year last I looked

    2. A_Builder says:

      OR’s set rates mean nothing if they don’t have the legal right to put it there.

      If they plonk it there illegally you can charge what you like.

  22. Andy Grey Rider says:

    You all have so much to say and it’s none of your business!

    1. Published says:

      It was made everyone’s business when they went to the papers.

  23. LoveFTTH says:

    Seems like an honest mix-up over boundaries as Openreach in general are quite fastidious about wayleaves, PTDs etc. If the customer had contacted their CP or filled out the complaints form on Openreach website they’d have had a response much quicker. I work for BT Consumer and Openreach are much prompter than they used to be at responding to complaints. Any letter is just scanned electronically so it is pointless. Go digital.

    The landowner here hasn’t had much of a victory. This area doesn’t have the best broadband. The poor neighbour who has probably been waiting ages for the pole work for their FTTH upgrade will have been delayed further. The pole will get moved but as best as I can tell it will just go on the council land and still slap bang in their view.

    Poles are unavoidable in brownfield areas like this. The cost of UG provision is too expensive and disruptive. In communities like this it is the only way.

    The twist to this tale will come when the landowner wants FTTH themselves…they’ve just moved the CBT further away!

    Pretty pointless overall, they’d have been much better leaving it where it is, as I’m sure time will prove.

    1. Stuart says:

      I would be one of those neighbours, well it’s close to me but chances are they will do the same at my bit in Tillicoultry. I was speaking with the BT guys when they were last out trying to see when it’s coming to me. Guy said chances are it wil be delivered via a pole as all the ducks that run under the ground are clogged

  24. John Bishup says:

    If it is right on the edge of their property, I’d say keep it there and pay some rent! There’s good money in telco leasing on private land – they get FTTP + rental income for doing nothing!

  25. Tony says:

    It sounds like it’s a bit of common land where the services run that the council used to tend but have relinquished it to the home owners to care for.
    Is he going to get the gas, electric water and sewage pipes dug out of it too?

  26. Misku says:

    One of the most indiscrete erections noted in the area for years.

  27. Dave says:

    Openreach put pegs in the ground to mark the location of new poles on our street. 1ft from the kerb. Obviously not realising that the location would stop trucks accessing as it is a narrow street. I tried to contact them and realised with a po box for contact it would be futile. So after chatting with neighbours we moved the pegs to more sensible places and they simply fitted the poles where they found the pegs even tho they didnt match the site drawings.

  28. Gimmie a pole says:

    Welcome to put one in my garden to get me fibre, stupid customer whining, and the fact the measurement of the pole is in feet to make it sound larger. Very tilted.

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