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MS3 Error Sees Broadband Poles Installed in Historic Monument Area

Thursday, Jan 11th, 2024 (11:08 am) - Score 3,600

Fibre optic network builder MS3 has apologised after a mistake resulted in several of its new telecoms poles being erected within an area of Hedon (East Yorkshire) that has Scheduled Monument status. The government-linked Historic England agency said consent had not been granted ahead of the work.

Asterion-backed MS3 is currently in the process of deploying a new 10Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network in the North of England (mostly around East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire). The operator ultimately aims to reach 535,000 UK premises by the end of 2025 and has so far covered 174,261 homes (142,538 RFS), which is up from 158,779 premises (119,139 RFS) on 2nd Nov 2023.

NOTE: The lower cost impact of poles can often mean the difference between building competitive gigabit broadband into an area or skipping it entirely.

However, it’s fair to say that MS3’s roll-out across parts of the Hedon area has attracted more than a few complaints and protests (examples here, here, here and here), which primarily relates to their use of telecoms poles for overhead cables. Such poles are a common sight across the UK, but they tend to be more contentious when built in areas that haven’t previously had them before or where there are already lots of poles (too many, as locals may see it).

Poles are popular because they’re quick and cost-effective to build, can be deployed in areas where there may be no space or access agreement to safely put new underground cables, are less disruptive (avoiding the noise, access restrictions and damage to pavements of major street works) and can be built under Permitted Development (PD) rights with only minimal prior notice.

On the flip side, not everybody is a fan of poles, which is an issue that is cropping up more and more as network operators expand their coverage. Complaints often focus on their negative visual appearance, concerns about exposure to damage from major storms (example), deployments in areas of outstanding natural beauty, the lack of more effective prior consultation, engineers that fail to follow safety rules while building and contractors that sometimes try to force them into small private gardens (rare).

Areas of Hedon Listed as a Scheduled Monument

The latest problem once again comes from the Hedon area, where the BBC reports that MS3 recently deployed several broadband poles in a scheduled monument area “without the necessary consent“. According to the government and the BBC’s take, “scheduled monument consent [via ‘Historic England’] is needed to carry out work that would demolish, damage, remove, repair, alter or add to a scheduled monument” and carrying out such work without consent is “classed as a criminal offence.”

A Historic England spokesperson said:

“Historic England is working with broadband contractors MS3 to understand the archaeological impact caused by the positioning of these poles. We are looking to relocate them outside of the scheduled area but if any of the additional poles can only be located within the scheduled area, we will work with MS3 to ensure the right permissions and mitigation is in place.”

Digging deeper. ISPreview understands this event occurred several months ago and involved three poles, which MS3 said were moved at the discretion of their contractors by a few metres during the installation process. But that move put them slightly inside the technical boundary of the historic monument area (we’re talking a few short metres).

The BBC’s article leads with a picture of the centre of Hedon and the Grade 1 listed St Augustines Church, although this is not the area where the problem itself occurred. One pole was deployed mid-way along Acklam Road (HU12 8NA), which looks much more like a normal 1970s housing estate, while the other offending poles were put up on Watson Drive – all just a little over the boundary into a monument area, but only just.

In fairness to MS3 and their contractors, this does seem like a relatively easy mistake to make as there are no visible monuments and other operators also have their telecoms infrastructure nearby (some may have been placed before the designation as a monument area, although it’s unclear). But MS3 admits this doesn’t excuse their mistake, which is wise because the past issues mean they’re currently under much more of a microscope than other operators doing the same sort of work.

A spokesperson for MS3 told ISPreview:

“We incorrectly installed three poles in a scheduled monument area in Hedon in November 2023 without the express permission of Historic England. This is not acceptable, and we are working to relocate them. We have been advised that swift removal is not the best course of action in case further damage were to occur and are gaining all required permission to do this.

We have tightened up our processes to ensure that the exact location discretion applied by contractors when installing a pole, which is necessary to avoid striking other utilities is reduced in boundary areas to historic sites”.

The situation will no doubt add fuel to the fire of those who oppose the deployment of any new poles, although the Government has so far given no serious indication of a desire to re-impose restrictions on such erections. The main reason for that is because such changes might seriously damage their own targets for digital infrastructure, while ignoring the many people who are still seeking access to faster broadband and better mobile connectivity. Lest we forget that quite a lot of other people would be happy to see poles if it meant they could access full fibre etc.

Finally, it’s worth noting that under the 2003 Electronic Communications Code (as amended 2013), operators are in fact allowed to put poles in these areas, but they do still need to notify and listen to any objections.

2003 Code:

Listed buildings and ancient monuments

7.—(1) A code operator may install electronic communications apparatus in proximity to a building shown as grade 1 or category A in the statutory list of buildings only if he gives written notice to the planning authority and—

(a) the planning authority has not objected in writing to the installation of the apparatus within 56 days of the notice being given; or

(b) if the planning authority has previously objected, it has given written notice of the withdrawal of its objection; or

(c) in Great Britain, the Secretary of State, after consulting with the planning authority, so directs.

(2) The notice to be given under paragraph (1) must state the code operator’s intention to install electronic communications apparatus and must describe that apparatus and identify the location where it is proposed to install it.

(3) A code operator is exempt from paragraph (1) if—

(a) the apparatus is to be installed for the purpose of providing a temporary electronic communications network under regulation 15; or

(b) he is undertaking emergency works and he has provided the planning authority with an expected date of completion and a statement of the grounds for the need to execute the works.

Revised in 2013:

7. After regulation 7 (listed buildings and ancient monuments), insert–

“7A.—(1) A code operator may install fixed-line broadband lines, fixed-line broadband cabinets, and fixed-line broadband poles in proximity to, or in the case of a fixed-line broadband service line affixed to, a building shown as grade 1 or category A in the statutory list of buildings only if the code operator gives one month’s notice in writing to the planning authority.

(2) Regulations 5(2), 5(2A) and 5(3) apply in respect of a notice given under paragraph (1).

(3) A code operator is not required to give notice under paragraph (1) where the apparatus is installed pursuant to regulation 7(3).”.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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18 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

    The monument status seems to relate to buried artifacts of significance, so actually installing poles in this location would be preferable to trenching.
    I assume an angry member of the “we hate MS3” brigade grassed them up and, instead of pressuring them to bury the unsightly cables, they just seem to be saying “We don’t want fibre here under any circumnstances”. Nice.

  2. Avatar photo LoveYou says:

    NIMBYs should be put in work camps

    1. Avatar photo Jason says:

      Not NIMBY’s
      We are supplied with Gigbit internet already via underground ducts.
      Another supplier, fine, but use the services already in place.

  3. Avatar photo Peter Fellows says:

    Do we really want our townscapes to end up looking like third world cities with their birds nests of unsightly overhead wires everywhere?

    1. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      I know the country has its problems, but describing the USA as “third world” is a bit of a stretch.

  4. Avatar photo Jimbob says:

    Birds nest in trees too. Let’s cut them down too

  5. Avatar photo Tee says:

    Cheap poles everywhere is a backward step the people want broadband but not this way.seems like some people only look at the cost not to mention the idiotic comments.

    1. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

      You’re 100% right.
      But in this case, the monument status seems to relate to buried artifacts. So trenching would be even worse.

    2. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      In many areas, at the root of the need for poles is the existing copper infrastructure being buried directly in the ground rather than ducted. So it’s historic installation cost savings leading to today’s excess infrastructure upgrade costs, impacting Openreach as well as Altnets.

  6. Avatar photo Ray Duffill says:

    In a comment last year, I said that the actions of one bad operator could eventually impact on the whole rollout. This is proving to be the case. The East Riding Going Underground campaign recently contacted East Riding of Yorkshire councillors with the following statement, and while there is still some way to go, Ofcom is being approached to act on these matters:

    “The council has recently seen an increase in complaints about the deployment of telegraph poles in the county, particularly from Hedon, Cottingham and Hessle which are the first areas targeted in the county by alternative network builders (AltNets).

    “AltNets must comply with a number of statutory obligations when installing their networks. Stripped of all ambiguities, these obligations include “requirements to share apparatus; use underground rather than overground lines; and minimise the visual impact on the surrounding area”. The perplexing way in which these obligations have been translated and written into legislation has led to the opposite taking place

    “The rollout of new networks was intended to take place in a manner that would not adversely affect communities, or undermine a broadband programme that ultimately was designed to benefit communities. But the practice has not met those intentions.

    “Broad community support has not been maintained for the rollout of this infrastructure; poor operator practice whilst undertaking street works has undermined it. The numerous health and safety breaches and inspection requirements have resulted in an increased workload for Streetworks and Highways Departments.

    “The threat of overbuild – different AltNets building their own networks – resulting in a proliferation of poles, and unnecessary street furniture impacting roads and pavements even in conservation areas, is now a very real threat in the East Riding.

    “Across the country, AltNets have been allowed to build their networks in cities, towns and villages virtually unchallenged, with little accountability and very little regulatory oversight. Local councils have been perplexed by the confusing legislation, and calls for clarity from the Government have not been met. This has led to the rollout of AltNets continuing, with them very much in the driving seat.

    “We have an opportunity in the East Riding to seek clarity, to seek accountability, and to seek better regulation. This can be achieved by testing the legislation and reporting the AltNets to Ofcom for non-compliance with their obligations. The rollout of networks should be stopped as an impetus to the Ofcom investigations whilst this process takes place.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Looks like a good advertisement for localism to me.

      Massive coincidence that these issues are happening where KCom are the incumbent, not Openreach, and as soon as KCom’s incumbent area is left even the deployments from MS3 dramatically reduce in pole count, isn’t it?

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      That said I’m very much hoping that Ofcom do take action. Ideally by forcing KCom to offer duct and pole access on identical terms to Openreach. I imagine issues would go away overnight when that product went live. Also via closing an issue being abused by one specific operator outside of your area. Other than that complaints are minimal and pretty much everything produces complaints.

      The narcissism in taking issues mostly impacting one area where the only difference between there and the rest of the nation is the incumbent telco and wanting to solve it with a nationwide embargo on altnet build rather than dealing with the root causes leaving that area more impacted is astonishing just FYI.

    3. Avatar photo Chopper says:

      KCOM do offer duct and pole access, as they are obligated to via Ofcom already. I’m not sure on the terms being identical to Openreach but from a cost perspective there are economies of scale to be considered there. I’d imagine other than that it’d be broadly similar to Openreach’s offering as Ofcom would oblige that.
      I think the issue in the Hull and surrounding areas is that you already have a full fibre network and there is therefore no need, or should be no need, for up to 3 other operators (MS3, Connexin, Grain) to overbuild. That full fibre network doesn’t already exist in many other parts of the country.

    4. Avatar photo Julie Dervey says:

      Totally agree.
      The legislation intended that rural and hard to reach communities would finally be able to access full fibre broadband. Instead these cowboy companies are ignoring the needs of the intended recipients and instead are using a legislative loophole to trash urban communities so that they can make a fast buck.
      I would sooner have no broadband at all than use their cheap and nasty poles. I wouldn’t touch them with a telegraph pole!

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Missed this but was reminded of it by events.


      ‘KCOM do offer duct and pole access, as they are obligated to via Ofcom already. I’m not sure on the terms being identical to Openreach but from a cost perspective there are economies of scale to be considered there. I’d imagine other than that it’d be broadly similar to Openreach’s offering as Ofcom would oblige that.’

      It’s a very long way from being broadly similar to Openreach’s offering and the obligations placed on KCom are quite different – evidenced by that Openreach compliance with Ofcom’s regulations on duct and pole access are monitored by Ofcom within wholesale market reviews, KCom’s aren’t.

      ‘I think the issue in the Hull and surrounding areas is that you already have a full fibre network and there is therefore no need, or should be no need, for up to 3 other operators (MS3, Connexin, Grain) to overbuild. That full fibre network doesn’t already exist in many other parts of the country.’

      The costs of connecting to KCom’s wholesale network are very high. Hull is an urban area and in many urban areas there are competing physical networks. Hull needs physical competition more than other urban areas as the wholesale pricing is so high.

      There are many competing physical networks in urban areas throughout the UK. I have access to three right here, properties just outside my estate have a choice of 4. By the end of 2028 three quarters of the country will have access to multiple full fibre networks.

  7. Avatar photo Peter Smith says:

    Everyone that says these companies shouldn’t think of the costs,just do it so it doesn’t spoil the look of the street,that’s fair enough,but you also must realise that all the extra cost they incure means you incure it when you sign up with them.
    In my street they didn’t have to put poles up because they have already been there for years, nobody has complained about them spoiling anything.
    If you want broadband at a competitive price this is what you will have to put up with,a few poles that you won’t even notice in awhile,or just stick with virgin,oh yeah not everyone can get virgin either.

    1. Avatar photo Julie Dervey says:

      I live in an area that is already served by KCOM full fibre broadband via telegraph poles. Why then does MS3 find it necessary to install at least 133% more poles on my street alone? If Connexin intend to do the same, my street will look like a forest of dead trees.
      I doubt that either of these companies will be around for long. They are both already being panned for lousy service records and their prices are not so dissimilar to KCOM’s so as to make me think them worth thinking about. That along with the ten year boycott signed by most of my town means that both companies will struggle to pick up enough business to turn a profit.

  8. Avatar photo Joyce Whittle says:

    In your review you state MS3 have stated that the 3 poles were moved at the contractors discretion ,and that they were moved only a few metres ,which took them into the scheduled monument area .
    The poles were not in fact moved ,they were in fact very close to the proposed intention of installation notices ,put up by MS3.
    Maybe the lack of involvement of planning authorities ,is as much to blame as MS3 lack of investigation ,prior to their own planning of installations ,that they did not research the area to find if the area included scheduled monuments.
    However when contacted about this area by a resident MS3 stated I quote “ we have all the consents we need”. Historic England confirmed MS3 in fact had not applied for consent from DCMS ,through historic England ,and hence we now await the result of that application and any action for this criminal offence.
    I wonder what the action would have been if a resident applying to the council for planning on his property ,in a scheduled monument area failed to apply for this consent .
    I am aware that scheduled monument consent has not always been required , but we must all live by the same rules unless of course you are a telecommunications code operator

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