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Concerns after 'unsightly' telegraph poles from 'bygone era' sprout up in streets across Aviemore

By Gavin Musgrove

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One of the new FTTP poles in Strathspey Avenue. Photo; Alasdair Morris,
One of the new FTTP poles in Strathspey Avenue. Photo; Alasdair Morris,

A new ultra-fast broadband network is being installed in Aviemore – but some concerned residents believe the ‘eyesore’ infrastructure being used belongs to a bygone era.

Telegraph poles have sprouted up in several streets across the village this past week as part of the delivery of Openreach’s next generation FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) service.

But their sudden appearance has prompted complaints from some of the nearby householders, who are upset they were not consulted before the “invasive and unsightly” tall poles and cabling were installed on their doorsteps.

Some argue it is a cost-saving measure – being cheaper than under-grounding the connections – but this has been denied by the digital network giant.

The poles are covered by permitted development rights, which means that no planning permission is required before installation.

A company spokesperson said they “strive to select and site their infrastructure sensitively” and apologised for local concerns.

She said: “We’re building a new, ultra-fast broadband network to give local people access to gigabit-capable broadband that will meet internet needs into the future.

“Poles are already widely used to provide existing services and, wherever we can, we use our existing duct-and-pole network to avoid digging and disruption for residents. But in order to reach some homes and businesses, we may need to carry out roadworks or put up new poles.”

“We look at all the options and only install new poles where it’s the only viable way to provide service.”

The spokeswoman said network providers have a right to instal telecoms infrastructure on public land, and Openreach follows a statutory process.

She said: “There’s no requirement to inform residents in advance but we give local authorities 28 days’ notice, and liaise with them if they raise any concerns.

“While there’s no obligation on a network provider if they feel any concerns raised by a council are unreasonable, our policy is to engage constructively with planning authorities to overcome any disputes.

“We made Highland Council aware of our plans and waited 28 days before we started work on these poles.

“Following this stage of the process, all new poles then have a statutory notice attached explaining how people can raise an objection.

“We strive to select and site our infrastructure sensitively and we’re always sorry to hear of local concerns.

“But we must balance this with the need to position equipment so we can meet residents’ demand for broadband, TV and other communication services.”

Peter Long, chairman of Aviemore Community Council.
Peter Long, chairman of Aviemore Community Council.

Peter Long, chairman of Aviemore Community Council said they had not been informed of the new village arrivals.

He said: “We are aware that some local residents are unhappy, and we have sought clarification from Highland Council and will be approaching Openreach direct.

“We find it extremely concerning that this type of invasive and unsightly development can proceed without any consultation with those affected or with the wider community.”

Individual cables will be run from the poles to households subscribing to ultra-fast broadband. Around 25 to 30 per cent of the new network in Aviemore is expected to be supplied overhead.

A Cairngorms National Park Authority spokesperson confirmed: "The poles are development by statutory undertakers and therefore considered to be permitted development.

"Openreach might have some facility to enable objections but there is no scope from our end, or Highland Council’s, to object formally."

There has been plenty of comment on social media to the new additions.

Bobby-joe Richardson pointed out: “An angle grinder is a good method of objection.”

Rayna Mcallister said: “Two poles appeared with cables across the road between Munro Place and Corbett Place. They are really ugly and stick out like a sore thumb and they still dug up the street.”

Laura Grigor commented: “I think we can live without faster internet if it means these appearing.”

Eilidh McLeod said millions had been spent putting pylons underground in the Cairngorms National Park ‘yet it is okay to erect these on residential streets in Aviemore’.

Nicki Watkins posted: “Such an eyesore. I simply can’t believe they’re allowed to erect these monstrosities.”

But there has been some positive support for the roll-out of the network.

Kate Lorimer posted: “Aviemore being targeted for FTTP so soon is actually quite amazing since the tech is so expensive to roll out in rural areas, and it’s usually cities that get it first.”

Openreach has the largest fibre broadband network in the UK passing more than 31.8m premises and has set a FTTP target of 20m premises by the mid-to-late 2020s.

The company reported revenue of £5bn for the year ended March 31, 2020.

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