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‘Mixed messages’ over fibre broadband masts

Holmes Chapel Parish Council has called for an “urgent” public meeting with Cheshire East and a fibre broadband company about the installation of masts near homes.

The parish council said it was “extremely disappointed” and “deeply concerned” after the masts were erected on the Ravenscroft estate, despite the company saying it would inform the village authority before going ahead.

The parish council said it had been given “mixed messages” by installation company Airband and Cheshire East and asked for both to “agree that underground services will be provided rather than posts that destroy the visual amenity for decades to come”.

As reported by the Chronicle in last week’s edition, residents held a peaceful protest at Ravenscroft after Airband engineers arrived to install two nine-metre poles.

Neighbours gathered around the workers, preventing them from drilling into the ground, while questioning what they were doing. After around 30 minutes, the workers gave up and left the site.

Responding to the protest at the time, a spokesperson for Cheshire East said: “For residents to prevent this work from going ahead is unfair, as this will create a legacy issue for future homebuyers, who will have to pay for this service to be delivered at whatever the cost might be in the future.”

Holmes Chapel Parish Council’s statement said: “We share and endorse the concerns and extreme disappointment of residents to this and other installations around the village.

“We are deeply concerned about the lack of clear communication and mixed messages received from both Airband and Cheshire East Council of the scope of these installations, which directly contradicts the agreement given to the parish council in January 2023.”

At the beginning of the year, parish council representatives met with Airband to share its concerns and to “seek clarity” on the installation process.

The parish council’s statement this week said: “At that meeting reassurances were sought, and the parish council left with the belief that installation of poles had virtually been completed and that Airband would inform the parish council should further installation be required.

“The parish council was extremely disappointed therefore, to hear from residents that additional poles had been installed. We had not been informed of these installations from Airband.

“We are extremely disappointed that permitted development legislation means that telecommunication providers are not legally obliged to consult on pole installations and therefore are not seeking the views of ourselves and residents before installing structures that makes such an extreme impact on the visual amenity of the village.”

The statement added: “We call upon both Airband and Cheshire East to hold an urgent public meeting with residents and ourselves to clarify the confusing and mixed messages being received and to agree that underground services will be provided rather than posts that destroy the visual amenity for decades to come.”

Responding to a letter from the parish council, a spokesperson from Airband said: “We had originally planned to use Toby Boxes, which go underground. Our build manager advised me this would cause around 10 days of disruption to the residents of Ravenscroft for eight hours a day while our engineers worked. This would also cause severe scarring to the road which would look unsightly.

“There is no legal obligation for us to issue stake notices and due to the quick turn-around time it was not feasible for us to put these up.”

Cheshire East Council and Airband were both contacted by the Chronicle and asked if a public meeting would be held, but they had not responded by deadline yesterday (Wednesday).

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