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Developers invest £85,000 in better broadband for housing estate
Wednesday 13 August 2014 10:26:33 by Andrew Ferguson

The Kings Reach development in Biggleswade is a significant boost to the town sizes with plans for something like 1,500 properties based new market squares and village greens off Saxon Drive on the eastern side of Biggleswade.

Campaigners chasing for better broadband speeds on the new development have succeeded in getting developers Martin Grants and Taylor Wimpey to give some £85,000 towards bringing superfast broadband to the ever growing estate. The area was not on the superfast radar as part of the Central Bedfordshire Council broadband project, being in the final phase with just a minimum 2 Mbps effort, and at the time of the commercial roll-outs from Openreach there was probably no new builds at all.

A good chunk of Biggleswade appears to have Virgin Media cable coverage with a highest speed test result of 155 Mbps on the very edge of the latest building phases. It would have made sense for Virgin Media to be approached and extend the network since new home owners are very often those looking for the full bundle of broadband and TV, or even better for the developers to have involved a FTTH operator.

It looks like the job has gone to BT and its Openreach arm, and we know of two cabinets serving the first phase of properties on the estate cabs 25 and 28, our current speed estimates for ADSL2+ are 2 to 3 Mbps (BT Wholesale says 1 to 3.5 Mbps and Ofcom data suggests 0.6 Mbps to 1.4 Mbps), the one ADSL2+ speed test we have currently is just 1 Mbps. The disparity between map based estimates and real world is partly down to the current design of estates with intricate curved roads that extend cable lengths even further. The speeds for the area from VDSL2 are unclear, if cabinet 28 is where Streetview shows it is then some may not get superfast speeds, but we believe there is a cabinet on Planets Way that would give people much better speeds. Openreach might re-engineer the network to site new cabinets, a lot depends on the timescales of delivery and the rate the estate grows at.

While researching this article we found a pdf entitled 'Commissioning Framework for Public Art', that includes suggested spending of some £260,000 on public art. The snippet we want to share and then have re-worded is below:

  • Public Art should be integrated into a development’s design process from the early design stages and be addressed in Master Plans and Design Briefs.
  • Where possible artists should be appointed as an integral part of a design team.
  • Public Art should be site specific responding to the place and the people. Consideration should be given to local materials, history and the appropriateness of artwork to its environment.
  • Public Art should be uniquely created and of high quality.
Extract from public art for Kings Reach plan
  • Broadband should be integrated into a development’s design process from the early design stages and be addressed in Master Plans and Design Briefs.
  • Where possible engineers should be appointed as an integral part of a design team.
  • Broadband should be site specific responding to the place and the people. Consideration should be given to local materials, history and the appropriateness of broadband to its environment.
  • Broadband services should be uniquely created and of high quality.
The broadband interpretation

The fact that an art plan exists ahead of a key utility says a lot about the planning process and the mind set of developers. Good marks for the developers to be doing something now, but it is not like it is 2001 when broadband was a geek thing, 80% of UK households have a broadband service. Unfortunately we still see too many people buying a new house and on having signed the contract discover broadband infrastructure is poor.

Comments

Posted by olicuk over 2 years ago
Even before signing the contract, builders hide behind technical incompetence to avoid providing fibre infrastructure. At the Taylor Wimpey development we recently purchased at, they tried to imply its availability (because the exchange was upgraded, despite the serving cabinet not being). Even when pushed, they just say it's up to Openreach, and aren't interested in further discussion. As it turns out, there are 3 Taylor Wimpey recent developments within a mile or so of my house, which are island notspots in a sea of fibre. We may be forgiven for thinking TW are actively preventing work?
Posted by Ross123w over 2 years ago
we are looking at new build developments that are planned for out area. I certainly plan to question what fibre infrastructure will be in place. It's sad I know, but it will be one of my deciding points before making the purchase.
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
@olicuk
Once the builder has your money, their attention solely focusses on either other properties, or on getting the roads adopted by the council - which takes stability.

TBH, the best way to get developers to focus on service needs like broadband is to refuse to buy until they agree to deliver.

Want to help future new-home buyers? Go visit some show homes, and walk away - making sure the advisors are well aware that you are walking because of broadband service.
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
@Ross123w
The sales advisors are useful guides as to what to expect, but don't rely on their statements.

If you want a service to happen, make sure it is in your contract. If you want the builder to focus, make sure the contract withholds some of the purchase price until the service is available.

Our solicitor withheld £1000 until the road was adopted... which took years.

All that matters to them is £££
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
@Andrew
I'm impressed that there is such a thing as an art plan!

But yeah - it kinda sucks that developers who could hold the key to decent broadband access infrastructure gloss over the fact.
Posted by vaswanigroup over 2 years ago
very interesting about public art plan.
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
I live on this estate and I am one of the people who has been campaigning for years for a resolution, and would like to thank you for covering it.
I'd like to clarify a few things though if I may.
I and many other residents have contacted Virgin Media via on many occasions and have had a standard response back that it isn't financially viable for them to extend their network to cover the new estate. Even though there is a Virgin Media Cabinet and manhole covers on the same roundabout as the BT cabinet 28 you mention that does indeed supply mine and about 100 other properties on the estate!
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
The BT speed estimates are optimistic. When I moved I had a download of 700Kb/s. Through various optimisations of VDSL face plate, purchasing a Billion 7800 router, I'm up to 1.5MB though it does drop quite frequently. Mine and other residents Loop Attenuation is reported as being 69 or 70Db. It really is on the fringe of not working at all, and some residents have actually had refunds from their ISP's because they have failed to provide a working service.
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
Cabinet 28 is indeed where you say it is and it’s about 800m from that cabinet to the estate, therefore to upgrade this to FTTC would probably be pointless. However, the solution which we believe is now all agreed involves an additional cabinet being placed on the estate and the properties which are currently connected to cabinet 28 being rerun to the existing cabinet 25 or the new one. We have confirmation that all existing properties on the estate will have FTTC available and are included in the scheme.
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
As for the modern art, it does show a lot about the planning process, however the key here which is also affecting other new build areas is that the original draft planning permission was approved back in 2007. At the time there was no FTTC and the Biggleswade Exchange only had 8MB’s ADSL available. It also probably wasn’t such a high level issue back then. What is wrong is that detailed planning permission for each phase of the development has been approved later, but the planning process doesn’t appear to have revisited the broadband provision during this process.
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
If I bought another new house, I would definitely ask about the broadband speed and have it built into the contract. At the time, I didn’t even consider it may be an issue. I assumed it would have been taken care of. I couldn’t even do my own research as I bought off plan and therefore no data was available. A lesson learnt!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
In terms of estimates, did not run them in the article as it is very possible that BT may re-jig the network, but cabinet 28 people are looking at around 17 Mbps from FTTC, estimate for ADSL2+ is 3.5 Mbps but can see speed tests are lower. So probably some unlucky wiring route involved.

There is an Openreach cabinet on Planets Way I believe, any identifying marks?
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
Openreach have not proposed upgrading cab 28. They are concerned by distance and that there will not be enough speed left on VDSL to make it worthwhile. Hence the approved proposal appears to be very comprehensive and involves moving a lot of properties to other cabinets.
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
I can see the Cabinet 25, located on Planets Way out of my windows, but I'm not connected to it as it wasn't there when my house was built!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
Ta - looks like some will get good speeds then, a rejig for those on 28 will improve things.
Posted by fastman over 2 years ago
cab 28 not being enabled , additional new copper and fibre cab furthen in than 25
Posted by purplerain over 2 years ago
Yes, from what I've seen of the proposal, a new cabinet will be implemented further into the development. Some properties on cab 25 (Planets Way) will be moved onto this new cab, freeing up space on 25 to allow all those properties on cab 28 to be moved to cab 25. It looks sensible and should shorten the distance to the cabinet for everyone.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
That is what I would expect, have enquiry in for official answer.
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