by Ray Duffill and Rebecca Hannant
Hedon residents opposed to the installation of broadband poles outside their homes have been involved in a stand-off with MS3 Networks.
On Monday, October 9, MS3 workers arrived in Hedon to start the process of installing 500 poles across the area, starting with Westlands Drive.
But members of the campaign group Going Underground were already on the scene to try to prevent any installation taking place. In a bid to halt progress, campaigners tried to stop workers accessing each pole location by parking cars at them, and parking cars to block access for large vehicles.
Residents were also reported to have repeatedly crossed the road to stop the vehicles from entering the areas. The action prompted police to attend the scene to try to resolve the situation. Work was hampered and delayed but five poles were reported to have been successfully planted.
Humberside Police said in a statement: “Officers were called to Westlands Drive in Hedon engaging with residents in the community following reports of access being obstructed. No offences were reported.”
Reports also suggest that a water main was damaged in the installation, causing a small leak. Yorkshire Water said in a statement: “We are aware of a small leak that has occurred in Westlands Drive, Hedon, due to damage caused by a third party. Our technicians went on site and repaired this.”
The following day, residents carried out similar action to stall progress on the Shields Road area of Preston South. At 8.15am, contractors from MS3 arrived to find all the spots marked for poles had cars parked near them, preventing holes from being dug.
Later when a lorry carrying nine poles arrived, residents began crossing the road in front of the lorry. The MS3 convoy of vehicles behind the lorry on the main road stopped to turn, causing a backlog of traffic on Hull Road. The lorry became stuck with residents crossing the road in front of it, while MS3 vehicles behind prevented it reversing. The resulting stalemate was said to have lasted for about two hours.
Smaller MS3 vehicles managed to reach other areas of the estate and dug holes in the previously marked areas. However, progress was not made by the main lorry to plant any poles.
After about two hours, police officers arrived to speak to residents and MS3 staff. Officers later ushered in the pole lorry to a safer parking position. However, further action from residents led to another stalemate as the lorry could not manoeuvre through the legally parked cars. Due to the action, MS3 workers were unable to carry out further work on the installation.
Previously, the campaign group Going Underground have tried several methods to try to stop the installation of the broadband poles in the area, including protesting outside Hedon Town Hall, launching a petition which received more than 4,000 signatures, and staging a boycott, with nearly 1,000 homes across Hedon and Preston South pledging not to use internet provided by MS3 Networks. MS3 remains committed to installing poles in the area.
Hedon resident Jane Johnson said: “We (the residents’ campaign group) are pleased that the police didn’t feel it necessary to stop our right to protest this morning on Shields Road. Although there was a stand-off between residents and MS3, the police were satisfied that it was a peaceful protest and there was no risk to life.
“It was unfortunate that two vehicles, belonging to employees of MS3 Networks, partially blocked the junction of Shields Road and Hull Road causing the traffic to back up into the centre of Hedon for an hour.
“We hope that the managers of MS3 Networks now realise the importance of ‘engaging with the community’ before arriving to dig holes and erect 9-metre creosoted telegraph poles in our streets. Furthermore, we would welcome the delaying of the telegraph pole roll out in Hedon until an actual public engagement process has taken place.”
Residents have also appealed for help from Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart. In a letter to Hedon and Preston South residents, Mr Stuart said: “I want to see competitive broadband offered in Hedon, Preston and everywhere in the East Riding, and I equally don’t want to see telegraph poles being erected unless it’s necessary.
“It’s right that the Government has made it a central mission to upgrade the whole country’s broadband to make it as cheap and competitive as possible, and it has taken steps to ensure that new players in the market can come in and provide new networks.
“In Hedon and Preston this has resulted in a telecommunications company, MS3, installing telegraph poles, as they say they cannot come to agreement with KCOM about sharing their underground infrastructure.
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with campaigners, your local councillors, East Riding Council and MS3 itself to get to the bottom of this. MS3 is entirely within its rights to erect these poles.
“It’s true that there are significant barriers to poles being erected in conservation areas, and I’ve received assurances from MS3 that it will work closely with the council to make sure its impact is as limited as possible.
“I’m determined to do all I can to make sure that everyone in my constituency has access to the best, cheapest broadband possible and this can only be achieved by creating competition in the KCOM area, and that requires companies like MS3 to be able to install commercially viable infrastructure. If the erection of poles is to be avoided, agreement will need to be reached with KCOM to use its underground infrastructure.”
Campaigners have pledged to continue their opposition to the poles being installed.
MS3 Networks has been invited to comment.