16 April 2024

MP chairs meeting amid row over telecoms poles

Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart has chaired a meeting between MS3, the company installing telegraph poles in Hedon and Preston, Cllr Steve Gallant and East Riding Council to try to find a solution for residents.

After a meeting that saw a forthright exchange of views, Mr Stuart said he was able to get some clarity about the situation with the potential installation of telegraph poles in Hedon, which has seen significant numbers of objections lodged with the council.

Cllr Gallant, South West Holderness ward councillor, forcefully put forward the views of residents, including about conservation areas, alleged breaches of the Ofcom Code of Conduct and MS3 not making use of KCOM’s existing infrastructure.

Guy Miller, CEO of MS3, responded that fibre cables were permitted to be run from telegraph poles and that they would not be installed in conservation areas. He also claimed that KCOM has put significant barriers to MS3 sharing its infrastructure, which Mr Stuart intends to raise with KCOM and the Government.

This issue arises from the unique nature of telecommunications around Hull, where KCOM is the main provider, rather than BT’s OpenReach. This means that companies such MS3, which seek to provide high-quality, low-cost broadband to third-party providers, either use KCOM’s infrastructure or provide their own to open the broadband market to new players.

Mr Miller also highlighted that MS3 had significantly improved its FAQs and complaints procedures, following meetings with Cllr Gallant and others.

Mr Stuart said: “I don’t want to see our streets unnecessarily cluttered with telegraph poles, and I want to see everyone have access to fast, affordable broadband.

“That’s why I met with MS3 and local representatives to get to the bottom of why these poles are going up in Hedon and Preston.

“I’m working with MS3 and the Government to discover why poles were the chosen solution, and why KCOM and MS3 aren’t working together to improve broadband for everyone.”

Mr Miller said: “MS3 welcomes the input of Graham Stuart in helping us strike the correct balance between resident disruption and the need for competitively priced fibre broadband in his constituency.”

Cllr Gallant said: “Although we have a dialogue with MS3, they are not listening to the overwhelming response of residents who do not want 500 poles blighting our historic town.

“They have opted for poles simply based on their own costs, when the Code of Conduct says they should share infrastructure wherever possible.”

Fellow South West Holderness ward councillor John Dennis said: “This ‘telegraph poles’ issue has been high on my agenda in recent days. It’s fairly obvious from the many calls and emails I have received that the proposal is very unpopular.

“South West Holderness residents quite rightly don’t want this invasion of their space to happen at all and prefer to see existing underground facilities being utilised wherever possible.

“In particular this is the case in our conservation areas which we want to protect to our utmost ability. Hopefully the town of Hedon and the village of Preston will not be seeing them erected in our central areas at all.

“We shall keep our eyes open and intervene if we think that rules and regulations are being breached or that MS3 promises are not being kept. Please let your ward members know if unwanted poles are appearing in the wrong locations. In some locations, e.g. if underground facilities are not available, they might have to be erected but we would want to keep the numbers to an acceptable level.”

A petition has been launched asking the Government to reconsider current legislation to allow people to oppose the developments if they are deemed unfit for the area, and giant banners have been placed around Hedon and the main Hull Road entrance into the town. A campaign group has pledged to boycott MS3 and its partner internet service providers for the next 10 years.

Cllr Gallant, who chairs the group, said they had reached a target of 1,000 homes (a third of households) in Hedon pledging to boycott MS3.

He said: “Campaigners have been door- knocking, handing out boycott forms and leafleting during the last week and we are nearly halfway to reaching our target. We have whole streets displaying No to MS3 Poles posters.”

A statement by East Riding Council’s Information Governance and Feedback Team, in response to complaints received, said: “The council appreciates residents’ concerns. However, in this case most of the issues raised remain outside of the council’s control as these telegraph pole installations fall under ‘permitted development’ where planning permission is therefore not required, as such the council cannot outright refuse these installations.

“Separate to the planning considerations, the council’s street work permit scheme
grants utility companies the right to be able to undertake necessary work and focuses on traffic control measures and safety – it does not relate to the approval or installation of these telegraph poles.

“The council encourages early community engagement by the installing company. This allows residents to voice their concerns directly to the relevant telecommunications companies and seek independent legal advice if needed. Complaints about telegraph pole locations need to be directed to the telecommunications company concerned.”