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West Sussex Council Encourage Full Fibre into New Build Homes

Monday, October 11th, 2021 (9:35 am) - Score 1,032
fibre optic broadband for the home

The West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has, having decided not to wait any longer for the UK Government to solve the problem, moved to “ensure that all newly-built homes” have essential “full fibre” broadband services “ready for homeowners when they move in,” which it will do by developing new planning “guidance“.

At present the vast majority of new build homes (around 90%) do arrive with support for Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure, usually via Openreach (BT), Virgin Media (VMO2) or one of various other alternative network operators (CityFibre, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic, OFNL etc.). But there’s still a small gap left to fill, particularly in rural areas where extending full fibre into new developments can be more of a challenge.

The UK Government have been planning to resolve this for years and in 2020 revealed a number of planned changes to the existing Building Regulations (here), which they (DCMS) said would mean that developers will be “legally required to install high-quality digital infrastructure from the outset, make it a priority as part of the build, and ensure broadband companies are on board before the first brick is laid“.

However, progress has been slow, and the necessary legislative changes have yet to progress through Parliament. In response, the WSCC has alternatively decided to take “positive action” by working with their partner planning authorities – each of the seven District and Borough Councils – to foster new guidance via the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

NOTE: Building regulations are a devolved matter. Therefore, the legislative amendments to the Building Regulations 2010 will apply to England only. However, the provision of gigabit-capable connections to new homes is a priority for the Government across the whole of the UK, and they are thus working to encourage similar changes “in a consistent manner across the UK.”

The guidance sets out how the authorities can use the NPPF to ensure that each area’s Local Plan “prioritises gigabit-capable broadband connections to new developments.” The guidance also lays out strategic considerations in forming telecommunications policy, as well as suggested requirements to consider in relation to development management and design principles. It has been formed in discussion with each Planning Authority’s Planning Policy Officer, who have acted collectively as a group to support its use.

Steve Waight, County Council Cabinet Member (Digital Infrastructure), said:

“Demand for high speed and reliable broadband services is increasing, particularly now many more people are working from home than before the Covid-19 pandemic started. A fast, reliable broadband connection has become vital.

Buying a home is probably the most expensive outlay that anyone makes in their lifetime and if that home is newly-built, it should come equipped with everything needed to live a comfortable, modern life. Retrofitting full fibre broadband into an existing development is a costly and disruptive process and we know from experience that developers are not keen to do this.

Without the planning guidance, and in the absence of legislation, it has been difficult to ensure that new developments have the most appropriate connections. There was previously no obligation on developers or operators to provide a high-quality connection as the only pertinent requirements were for a telephone line and ‘functional’ internet access to be available – which could be as slow as basic broadband.

The Government is intending to remedy this through publication of its New Homes (New Development Standards) Bill, but this has yet to progress through Parliament and we and our partners are taking positive action in the meantime through the National Planning Policy Framework.”

We should point out that the New Homes (New Development Standards) Bill mentioned above was actually a Private Members Bill tabled by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (Conservative), which is not necessarily the legislative vehicle that the government would use for their policy. Indeed, that bill “failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session … [and] will make no further progress.”

In addition, a 2016 directive from the EU (details), which is already adopted into UK law, means that all newly constructed buildings (i.e. those that gained permission after the 31st December 2016) must be “equipped with a high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure, up to the network termination points.” But this still leaves it up to the developers and ISPs to decide whether to deploy an actual working service.

The Government has not issued a solid update on its plans in this area since last year, but it’s good to see that some councils are continuing to take a more proactive approach to resolving the remaining problem areas.

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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
7 Responses
  1. Paul says:

    I can’t believe this is still not a requirement of planning. The government need to produce some legislation to make it law. The local authorities hands are tied all they can do is request. Yet another reason not to buy a new build.

    1. 5G_Infinity says:

      Its not a local planning issue, guidance can come from central government yet at the same time the fibre providers need to be honest and step up, something that is now happening given the competitive market. Meanwhile i would put the developers, with one exception that I know in detail, as being guilty of sidestepping giving their customers a real benefit.

    2. Gary says:

      It’s not an essential service back off planning dept.

  2. Fastman says:

    biggest and lottery is a small development where its between 2 – 25 plots , that an absolute lottery . most of these will have a had a fibre offier (possibly with some contribution from Developer) more that likely Developer wil have taken the cheapest Option — this is happening all over the country currently — from Central London to Rural counties

  3. Gary says:

    Sure let’s prioritise newbuild, stuff the existing housing stock further down the pecking order

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Existing housing stock is already the main focus for all deployments. None of the above changes that.

  4. MilesT says:

    The initiative focuses on the technical solution not the requirement (1gb capable).

    Fine to express a preference for fibre into the building (maybe not into each property for dense development), but should permit local wireless, 5g and sat solutions with external antenna if that is what is practical for a remote location, and also mandate 70mbs FTTC with sensible local cabinet placement as the bare minimum if nothing else is possible.

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