More than 270 protesters in Broadway, Worcestershire, are trying to stop wooden poles being erected outside their homes – with one taken to hospital after clambering on to a contractor’s lorry.
The blockade is one of a series of ongoing protests against the installation of broadband poles outside people's homes.
The UK government has committed to rolling out fibre broadband coverage across all of the UK by 2033 and in April 2022 the law changed so that operators can erect telegraph poles without having to apply to councils for planning permission.
75-year-old resident jumped onto the pole truck to stop installation outside his home
Broadway provider Full Fibre is to trying to install 22 poles between 9m and 11m tall on a residential estate in the village and a further 21 elsewhere in the village.
But residents of Broadway are protesting in the streets and doing everything they can to prevent the contractors from carrying out the work.
One protestor, David Owen, 75, was taken to hospital after repeatedly climbing aboard a contractors' lorry during the protests and became unwell. He was later treated in hospital for hypothermia and was arrested while he was in the ambulance on suspicion of a public order offence. West Mercia Police has since confirmed he has not been charged with the offence.
He said: “This is an estate where the residents don't have telegraph poles with wires outside of their house, never have had.
"There are mothers with babies, and they want to put these poles two metres outside the bedroom."
This follows previous protests last month where homeowners in Hedon blockaded roads to stop installation of broadband poles.
Homeowners say area should be protected due to being AONB
A 2013 amendment to the Electronic Communications Code 2003 allows companies to install overhead cables without planning permission, but not in conservation areas.
The work is considered to fall under permitted development rights if “the work is by or on behalf of an electronic communications code operator for the purpose of the operator’s electronic communications network”.
One of the protest’s organisers, Amanda Gray, says Broadway is located in an Area of Natural Beauty and the “proposal would not accord with these landscape strategies and guidelines”.
She added: “We already have existing underground infrastructure for fibre – these poles are duplicating an existing service.
“There are villages who are suffering with poor broadband services who are not being helped. We have no overhead utilities in our estate at all – all utilities are underground.
“Over 280 residents have signed petitions against overhead installation of this service – as we already have an underground service. The irony is, that there is another provider, Gigaclear, digging the estate up at the same time but putting the infrastructure underground, with Full Fibre looking on from a pole truck!
“What Full Fibre Ltd are doing here is vandalism.”
Cllr Emma Kearsey, Executive Board Member for Planning and Infrastructure on Wychavon District Council, said: “Permitted development rights for communication infrastructure wrongly give the impression we have any powers or say on them and unfairly raises our residents’ expectations that we have control over implementation. The truth is we have zero powers to prevent the installation of communications poles under 15m because they are classed as permitted development.
"These rights even apply to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. All communication companies are required to do is give us 28 days notice and comply with the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003 and other relevant legislation.
“Despite our lack of powers, we recognise and share the concerns of our residents and so have gone above and beyond over the last five months to try to convince the communication companies involved to explore other options, including sharing underground infrastructure. There has been extensive communication and several meetings involving senior managers from the companies carrying out the work involving myself, our Director of Economy and Environment and even our Chief Executive, who has written twice to Ofcom, raising concerns. But as we have no powers to force operators to share apparatus or to require them to lay apparatus underground, our efforts have so far proved unsuccessful.
“While we welcome the increased investment in digital infrastructure in our area, we believe this should be possible without having to cause blots on the landscapes of our communities.”
Protestors say their suggestion for underground cables have been ignored
Residents said they are not against Full Fibre but would like the work to be done "properly by using the existing underground infrastructure".
The company says it had worked hard to respond to all concerns and to highlight the importance of the work.
A spokesperson said: “We are a business that is working to upgrade the UK's infrastructure to future-proof towns and villages," a spokesman said.
“However, we are aware that these changes can bring a level of disruption, and we continually strive to minimise any impact as much as possible.
“This includes working with communities to reduce their frustrations and understand the importance of the work we are doing.”
A petition proposing the exclusion of telecommunication installations from permitted development legislation was created but fell short of the 10,000 votes it needed to get talked about in the House of Commons.
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Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world. As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.