Residents across Hull have become increasingly fed-up with telegraph poles being installed outside their homes, even in their gardens, without their permission – often without prior notice.
In 2013 the then Coalition Government changed the rules for telecommunications companies, so that they no longer needed to consider residents or local councils when they put up new infrastructure.
With Hull’s particular history with KCOM and a squabble among competing new companies about who can use existing infrastructure, this has led to an unattractive clutter of these outdated poles popping up on streets all over the city.
For over a year now, I have heard from frustrated constituents who have been caught out by this gap in the law. This has included disabled constituents with poles blocking access to their driveways, businesses with poles blocking access to their warehouses and families with poles plonked outside their windows.
I have been trying to get the issue resolved, contacting communications companies to push them to reconsider their approach to rolling out services. I’ve also met the regulator Ofcom to see what levers they could use to help residents. Finally, I’ve asked the Government to step up and address this issue because, unfortunately, none of these companies are breaking the current law, as it was changed a decade ago.
In early March, I petitioned Parliament to make it a legal requirement for network operators to apply for permission to the local planning authority before installing poles or under-surface wiring. This petition and petitions by my colleagues Emma Hardy MP and Karl Turner MP have been signed by hundreds of people who, like us, think the current situation is unacceptable.
Next, I led a debate in the House of Commons, asking a Minister to revisit the changes made in 2013 and ensure that mobile and internet network expansion, as much as most people want to see it, does not ride roughshod over the rights of residents. Unfortunately, the Minister chose to ignore the concerns of local people.
I will now be proceeding with the Bill I have prepared to introduce mandatory local consultation for any telecoms infrastructure in residential areas. With this law in place, nobody would be forced to accept a pole in their garden, outside their front gate or blocking their driveway.
A modern broadband infrastructure would still be rolled out, but with local residents having the chance to act as the ‘Common Sense Department’ that has been so lacking at times – their local knowledge helping to find the most suitable locations that cause the least inconvenience.
I’ll continue to raise this issue, but rather than wait for the Government to take a lead I’m calling on all the network companies in Hull to come together to agree a code of practice in which residents’ voices are included - not excluded.
I hope that the companies will listen to those who, I assume, they would like to welcome as their customers.
First published in the Hull Daily Mail https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/diana-johnson-proposes-new-bill-8307712