Telecoms utilities and telegraph poles

Access to digital services

Access to digital services is becoming increasingly important to businesses and consumers throughout the UK and is vital for economic growth and the development of a strong local economy, particularly in rural areas. Delivery of many commercial and public services is increasingly dependent on good quality internet access, leading to real disadvantages to those residents and businesses without high-speed broadband. It is also critical to the delivery of the council’s Digital Strategy, which was approved by Cabinet on 12 October 2021:

Digital East Riding (external website)

The council’s Broadband Programme remit is aligned to the Government's national broadband targets. These are the provision of 85% UK wide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 and national gigabit-capable broadband coverage (99%) by 2030. £5 billion of public investment has been made available by the Government to achieve these targets.

Working with the statutory body Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT), the council's Broadband East Riding Programme utilises public funding to improve both the provision and speed of broadband connections in the East Riding, through procurement of the required infrastructure. To date this has seen over £25m of public investment brought into the area, with nearly 50,000 home, school and business premises benefitting from improved broadband through a number of major contracts delivered by the Programme Team.

As currently planned, 2024 will see the beginning of our share of the Government's £5 billion investment being spent in the East Riding, with 3 major public broadband projects due to commence in the region. Under the banner of 'Project Gigabit' around 25,000 premises in the East Riding will have their broadband connections upgraded to gigabit-capable with rural/hard to reach premises being targeted in areas where commercial investment is not planned. These projects will run for 2 to 3 years and will bring our region to over 90% gigabit capable broadband coverage, from our current position of nearly 83% (above the national average of 77% gigabit-capable coverage).

The council’s Broadband Programme also works with commercial broadband suppliers to understand their investment plans to ensure public funding is not directed to areas earmarked for commercial investment. Also, to help facilitate closer working between the council and those suppliers, again linked to achieving the Government's broadband coverage targets. However, the council is not responsible for commercial broadband projects.

Telecommunications apparatus and the planning system

The Government has advised local planning authorities that it believes the legislative framework currently in place strikes the right balance between ensuring not only that network deployment can happen at pace, but that installations are carried out in a proportionate way, with regard to the impacts on communities.

The Electronic Communications Code is the framework that underpins agreements between operators and occupiers with regard to the deployment of digital infrastructure on, under or over land. Operators have statutory rights under the Electronic Communications Code to carry out street works and install apparatus in, on, under or over a street or road, and that some types of apparatus can be installed using permitted development rights, which do not require planning permission from the local planning authority. However, when exercising their statutory rights to install apparatus, operators must adhere to duties and obligations contained in both the Electronic Communications Code itself, and in its accompanying regulations: the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003, as well as requirements under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 and related legislation.

The 2003 Regulations include requirements for operators to share apparatus where practicable; to use underground, rather than overground, lines where reasonably practicable with certain exceptions; and when installing apparatus, to minimise the impact on the visual amenity of properties, the visual impact of the landscape and potential hazards and interference with traffic as far as reasonably practicable.

As the independent regulator for telecommunications, Ofcom is able to take enforcement action in respect of breaches of the restrictions and conditions contained in the 2003 Regulations if it has reasonable grounds to believe that operators are failing to comply with those requirements when deploying apparatus. Residents should inform Ofcom of any situations where they believe operators are not complying with their statutory duties.

There is also a code of practice - the Cabinet Siting and Pole Siting Code of Practice 2016 - in place relating to the siting of cabinet and pole installations. This code of practice was developed by the Government, in collaboration with two major fixed-line operators and other interested parties. The code of practice provides guidance on ways operators can ensure these installations are placed appropriately, and that local authorities and communities are engaged with regarding the proposals. For example, the code of practice sets out that, where new poles are to be installed, the operator should notify the local authority and place a site notice to indicate to nearby residents the intention to install a pole, and the proposed location. If residents wish to raise any observations in respect of these notifications, any comments should be directed to the code operator’s contact address included on the notice and not to the council.

In addition to the duties and obligations operators must adhere to when deploying apparatus, specific provisions in the Electronic Communications Code include rights for individuals to object to and seek the removal of certain apparatus. The legislation sets out the process for raising an objection - which involves such a person taking an operator to court - and the factors which the court will consider, when deciding whether the apparatus should be removed.

Conservation areas

The council as Local Planning Authority has held meetings with a number of code operators to remind them of their responsibilities under the Electronic Communications Code which, amongst other things, requires them to notify the local planning authority of their intended works. In respect of proposals within conservation areas, the Code expects operators to install apparatus underground, however there may be instances where this is not possible or exceptions apply, for example where it is a replacement pole or involves attaching service lines to existing poles. There may be other instances where placing equipment underground may be more disruptive than erecting above ground equipment, but each case in a conservation area will need to be considered on its own individual merits.

In these instances, the council's conservation team will be given the opportunity to comment on those proposals where overhead lines and above ground apparatus is proposed within conservation areas. As part of the notices that the code operators display, residents will also be given the opportunity to comment on the proposals directly to the code operators, not to the local planning authority.

As a local planning authority, we are required to be notified of the operator’s intentions, but the council is not responsible for issuing permission for the erection of this form of telecommunications apparatus nor is it responsible for the regulation of the works undertaken by the operators, this is a matter for Ofcom:

Ofcom Website (external website)

In summary, the Government has advised us that they believe the rights, duties and obligations contained in the existing legal framework promote efficient deployment, while taking into account impacts on communities.

Proposed utility works on the public highway and adopted land

Utility companies and telecommunication companies are collectively termed statutory undertakers. They have statutory rights to install new apparatus and maintain their existing infrastructure on the public highway to deliver services to customers. This also includes service strips in front of properties which are part of the public highway. Local Highway Authorities (the council) have powers to direct statutory undertaker works as far as the timing and safety control measures utilised for such works. The council’s Streetscene Service will generally only send back comments where a proposed pole location is causing an obvious danger or obstruction, in which case the suggested resolution would be to adjust the position of the pole to where impact is minimised. However, the proposed installation of new service networks cannot be challenged and refused outright.

If an owner or occupier of adjoining land or other members of the public have any complaints about a pole location, these must be directed to the relevant utility or telecommunications company responsible and not submitted to the council.

The council’s Streetscene Service also operates a Street Works Permit Scheme. A Street Work Permit is granted for a utility company to allow occupation of and/or temporary control of a specific stretch of a street. The permit allows the council, as the highway authority, to consider the traffic control measures to be utilised and prevent or minimise clashes with other activities on the highway. Granting a permit should not be mistaken as the council’s approval of the service installation or the installation of the apparatus itself, as this is a permitted development right that the operator has been granted under the above legislation. The Street Works inspectors monitor the quality of the road works, ensuring safety measures and reinstatements are carried out to an acceptable standard. It is up to the utility companies and their contractors to ensure compliance with appropriate legislation and codes of practice applicable to their own infrastructure.

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