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Will we see more angry residents with new planning regulations?
Friday 07 September 2012 14:19:16 by Andrew Ferguson

As people we are creatures of habit, and when something appears that was not previously present we tend to take a great deal of notice of it. This certainly seems to be true for one resident in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, who is now objecting to the presence of an Openreach FTTC installation.

The local press has talked to the concerned property developer who claims the new cabinet is an eyesore and will attract anti-social behavour near the house, citing that a similar cabinet in the area is attracting gangs of kids who sit on top of the cabinet! A little investigation via Google Streetview reveals the cabinet is on the corner of a cul-de-sac opposite a furniture store.

The resident appears surprised to not be informed or consulted about the installation, or the ease with which Openreach are able to install the cabinets, so today's news that will remove the requirement for planning permission even in Conservation areas will not be welcomed by this person, and may result in a campaign to stop these changes happening.

The real question is whether objections are more to do with people not liking change, or genuine grievances e.g. reduces width of pavement below acceptable level. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that good broadband speeds can help improve the chances of selling or renting a property.


Posted by mitchja over 5 years ago
It's just the same thing as with mobile phone masts. People don't want them near them but complain when they have no mobile coverage.

It's the 'not in my back yard' scenario
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Having just seen a picture of this cabinet via teh local paper, there is a brick wall topped by a hedge between it and the house, so its clearly not an eyesore from the house. As its on the public footpath and does not obscure access to the property in question its difficult to see why the householder felt he should be consulted.

So agree, definitely a NIMBY example!
Posted by huwwatkins over 5 years ago
Just make the top pointier so you can't sit on it. Job done.
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 5 years ago
Unfortunately the NIMBY argument is going to cloud this issue. There is actually a real concern, not just about what they look like, but where they are placed.

Just for background, I work for a local highways authority, and we're concerned that without the permissions being sought, cabinets and 'other infrastructure' (which I think is a loophole you could drive a bus through) will be placed in the most inappropriate and dangerous places. And don't think that the installation engineers will take issues like that into consideration. Professional experience has shown that tends not to happen.
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 5 years ago
Don't get me wrong, I really want these projects to move on, and for many NIMBYs to go crawling back to their holes. But, entirely eliminating the planning process will only cause major annoyance and potential danger.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Interesting that you think they "will be placed in the most inappropriate and dangerous places" - this is the sort of anti development bias in council officials we want rid of.

I find your suggestion that they go out of their way to put them in the wrong place ridiculous. Please resign forthwith, saving us £50k pa, and crawl back into *your* hole.
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Plenty of pavement space and not particularly overlooked. Do some people think their boundary extends to the edge of the pavement perhaps.

Did the kids congregate and indeed sit upon the original cabinet then? If they are that bored perhaps the local council should erect a bench.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Just maybe if we were to engage with other people and groups, rather than operating as lords behind our brick rules passing down judgements, then just maybe common sense solutions could be found in many cases.

Some councils appear to be good at managing their interaction with Openreach, others seem to exist on a dot the i or form is returned basis.
Posted by strzelecki over 5 years ago
I lived down the road from here when I was at University a while ago and would say the new cab actually improves the area! At least if he wanted a fast connection he'd get full whack on FTTC and have the choice of cable too.
Posted by Michael_Chare over 5 years ago
Compared to building a new airport runway for London or a new high speed railway from London to Birmningham I would have thought that FTTC installions were relatively uncontentious. If the government wants to spend money on infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy I would have thought that speeding up the rollout of 'fast' broadband is an excellent opportunity to spend money quickly on something that will last for a lifetime rather than being a 2 week wonder like the Olympics.
Posted by NetGuy over 5 years ago
@herdwick - where did he say "they go out of their way to put them in the wrong place".

The guy says that experience shows that some engineers don't necessarily take notice of dangers they may create - such engineers clearly not thinking from the perspective of others, just how to solve their particular task.

Didn't 'tar' everyone, just suggested the majority, at least to me!

While planning staff sometimes don't seem flexible or correct, they're looking at matters further than the end of their nose.
Posted by Northwind over 5 years ago
If people are so keen on having FTTC cabinets installed in their neighbourhood, why don't they offer to host them in their gardens?

Or put them in the road. Funny how drivers don't have to deal with obstructions in the road, yet the pavement which is also legally part of the highway is littered with obstructions.

Grrrr etc
Posted by NetGuy over 5 years ago
@Michael_Chare - indeed, and they might be able to zap some daft plans like HS2 if high speed broadband allowed teleconferencing to work better and thus reduce some of the need for business travel.

Of course, ideally, people would work closer to home and that'd cut lots of traffic and rail overcrowding at peak times. Starting to get annoyed about how so many commute and moaning about ever increasing rail season tickets.
Posted by NetGuy over 5 years ago
@Northwind - I'd happily have a cabinet in my garden, but it's at least 100m from the cabinet serving this bit of the estate.

There's no guarantee the people living closest actually use Openreach at all, since Virgin Media serves some 70% of this postcode area, so there's little incentive for those people is there... and Virgin Media supposedly could serve some 50% of the UK.
Posted by NetGuy over 5 years ago
'put them in the road' - may be viable if there was only a need to open once in a few years, but when an engineer is tracing a fault, and has to open up even two cabinets, it would be quite impractical.
Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago
Given that the top is not used for anything, can't we put something useful there, such as a "No Chavs" sign?
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
We have seen it before when somebody in St Albans who was incensed with FTTC coming to their area they set up a national campaign to get OR to stop the FTTC rollout.

As I have said in the past we need the Daily Mail to run a story saying that FTTx will add £20k to your house price and we'd see everybody asking for it to be installed.
Posted by weesteev over 5 years ago
The cabinet highlighted in the streetview image is a Virgin Media distribution cabinet, the BT cabinet in question is on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac entrance.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
The google view angle is pointing to where the FTTC cabinet is located, just it was not there when Google drove past. The newspaper article has a picture of the actual install.

Was aware that there was a BT and Virgin cab on this junction. Probably the case that power is easier to access on the same side as the virgin cab
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
@mitchja there is a valid argument as far as mobile phone masts go,that being the possible risks to health, where as there are no such health risks with FTTC Cabinets, only aesthetic reasons, from those who obviously are not interested in broadband at all
Posted by NilSatisOptimum over 5 years ago
@Andrew ttb, "engage with other groups", requires a form of communication we talking about Local Authority’s and Openreach, they generally don’t communicate with themselves! Its asking a bit too much.
Posted by YaZiN over 5 years ago
@herdwick - You've never had first hand experience of a cab being placed almost dead centre of a 2m wide footway, on a bend, in front of a vehicle sight line have you. Come back when you can understand what the Local Highway Authority has to deal with!
Posted by YaZiN over 5 years ago
I will also add that, on the whole, my first-hand experience of the rollout in my area has been both good and bad. When you're dealing with hundreds of sites and streetworks, you get all sorts complaining, both legitimately and without merit, about the cabs.
Best complaint so far was from a resident who said that kids were having sex on the existing PCP. God knows what he thought would happen on the fibre cab :D
Posted by LT38 over 5 years ago
they stuck a few of these in a little town just outside st austell its not that they are not wanted its just the fact they stand out because BT insist on advertising there precence with gawdy vinyl posters stuck to them advertising what they are is that needed
Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago

"Best complaint so far was from a resident who said that kids were having sex on the existing PCP. God knows what he thought would happen on the fibre cab"

Same thing, only faster :-p
Posted by Colin_London over 5 years ago

Wonder if it's already started. A cabinet that was repeatedly refused permission by my local council up until May this year has appeared within the last week in the original position it was planned. There have been no applications for cabinets since the application was refused so presumably they have put it in anyway, maybe knowing what the Government was about to announce.

Kensington & Chelsea Tories must be spitting blood about this - totally undermined by their own party in Government!
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
Well this is one less excuse for Openreach to give me about why they're months / years behind in my area.

(NB I say excuse not explanation as the council here have no idea what OR are talking about when they claim the council have embargoed them from construction).
Posted by YaZiN over 5 years ago
@Colin_London - The guy was such a pain!! He even went out and stood in the partially excavated site preventing the sub-contractors from carrying out a temporary reinstatement to make the site safe while they tried to resolve the issues.
Posted by Colin_London over 5 years ago
The biteback has started:

'But Local Government Association housing board chairman Mike Jones said: .... "You cannot take away the rights of people to have a say on six-foot high, humming junction boxes outside their windows and gardens or poles and wires festooning their streets. Rushed and unnecessary roadworks to lay cables also risk costing council tax payers a fortune in repairs and, even when done properly, shorten the life of the roads."
Posted by nooneatall over 5 years ago
lol. they could put it in my front garden if it means I get more than 2.5Mbit
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
@YaZin your knowledge of what I have experienced is impressive. You'll know that it includes road signs placed by the Highway Authority that completely block visibility at two junctions near me.

@NetGuy "we're concerned that without the permissions being sought, cabinets and 'other infrastructure' will be placed in the most inappropriate and dangerous places" <- this would require some special effort, would it not.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
If the changes are blocked, then it gives a get out clause to the fastest promises, as in they can say they tried, but because efforts were blocked we were not able to do it.

What the information today did not lay out was what would happen in the case of restrospective complaints, which is actually how the majority of cab issues occur today.
Posted by drteeth over 5 years ago
The *first* thing I check for when moving house is BB speed. An FTTC cabinet outside a house would be a BIG plus for me, providing the house was connected to it, natch.
Posted by YaZiN over 5 years ago
@herdwick - Did you contact the highway authority to bring up the issue of the road sign/s? Or did you just complain on an internet msg board?
Posted by Spectre_01 over 5 years ago
Wow, that place looks like a dump, BT installing a fibre cab is the nicest thing anyone's done for the place in a long time, shame Mr Podmyre can't even see it from behind his 10ft high bush.
Posted by BTbrownnoser over 5 years ago
We've had bt fibre cabs since march, and although i know what they are, and they are a recent addition, i barely notice them now. plus im happy with my 38 meg connection :)
Posted by bosie over 5 years ago
If this means Virgin Media will now consider coming back to Westminster, I will be very happy. They pulled out last year over costs renting from BT (from NTL days) and Westminster's refusal to allow Virgin to dig new ducts.
Posted by otester over 5 years ago
There are plenty of areas which would be grateful, if they complain, pack up and move on.
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 5 years ago
@YaZiN - Thank you for not jumping to stupid conclusions and realising that we in a highways authority are not paid just to annoy people.

@Herdwick - come along then, what were the signs in question? And to which authority do you live in? Also, I wish I was paid £50k, but the vast majority of council workers are not paid that at all (i'm at the £33k mark and a manager fyi).
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 5 years ago
Don't be a dick and assume we do not have the publics interests in mind. We have to juggle both customer requirements and statutory needs. I agree we should talk more to the utilities about what they do, but it is a two way street.

The Traffic Management Act tried to make the utilities more accountable (particulary gas and phone) for the work they do on the highway. However, my authority don't have the teeth as they have been pulled out by the politicians.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Surely the changes relating to conservation areas announced on Friday affect the Planning Dept rather than the Highways Authority? Its the former that gets a say in the location of cabinets, although granted they might be expected to consult with the Highways Authority along the way.

Granting of permits for streetworks is not about the siting of the works, just its timing and impact on local traffic.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago

Not being pedantic, its this sort of confusion about who actually has the authority to make a decision that seems to cause problems currently.
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 5 years ago

It's a bit of both really. Your right that streetworks act relate to the undertaking of works, not so much of the siting of them. However, we should be consulted as to their location through the planning process. Removing that function means we do not get a say on their location.

TBH, we couldn't give a hoot really about the NIMBYs main objections, but aside from Herdwicks narrow comments, we do have to fulfill our safety obligations.
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 5 years ago

People moan and belittle H&S considerations but then their not the ones that take the shit and the hit when it goes all wrong. We don't pull this stuff outta our asses, our procedures are based on historical cases that we really would prefer not to repeat.
Posted by YaZiN over 5 years ago
@big_bubbaloola - I'm on the same side (streetworks). Our Council has had packs with all planned cab locations before all permits were submitted. In most instances the locations were fine, some had to be re-located. Part way through the rollout things had to be stopped due to issues with both permitting and work practices.
Posted by Essex over 5 years ago
IF the resident is the person with the high hedge that obscures the box and the road sign. I presume then that the illegally parked cars outside that persons house are not theirs either? (Old Google map I know) I bet the cars are still illegally parked there? ) An up to date mobile phone piccy could sort that one. If true, then maybe the police and or local authority should pay the person a visit. Noting that they are blocking the right of way for people and pushchairs on the public footpath outside their property? Then point them to this forum so they can see what twits they are really are.
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