February 7, 2023 4.00 pm This story is over 14 months old

Broadband pole firms avoids “public meeting” after angry Lincoln residents turn up

Residents are not impressed, again

Angry Lincoln residents have been left without answers after a broadband company missed a “public meeting” on the installation of telegraph poles.

It comes after some residents were furious when Spring Fibre installed tall telegraph poles on the pavements outside their homes, instead of putting the cables underground.

More than 50 people turned up to the Doddington Road/Exchange Road junction in the city after they were invited by Labour Councillor Biff Bean to join him in meeting representatives from Lincolnshire County Council and Spring Fibre on Monday.

Councillor Bean insisted he had been told he could invite whoever he wanted, however, Spring Fibre said the nature of the meeting had changed from their initial understanding and that they had been “advised not to attend”.

Lincolnshire County Council also said there had been “some confusion” about the meeting being public with the council and company not intending that to be the case.

The mix-up meant an LCC highways officer was left trying to answer residents’ questions on their own.

Residents are not opposed to broadband and understand how the poles help in rural areas, however, believe that the installations in the city are unnecessary when trenches already exist.

There is also anger that highways works such as the installation of poles, do not come under planning regulations. Instead, being allowed by default unless they interfere with highway safety.

Campaigners say this means they have not been, and cannot be, properly consulted on the installations, many of which are being erected outside windows or with wires trailing through trees in some of the more naturally affluent areas of the city.

Lincolnshire County Council officers were left to try and answer residents’ questions. | Image: Daniel Jaines

Following the meeting Councillor Bean said: “When I agreed to the meeting, I asked Lincolnshire County Council who I could bring with me, and they said, bring anybody that you want. So I’ve invited a lot of residents.

“Unfortunately, Spring Fibre were not here to give them some clarity and some transparency regarding what they’re doing.”

He said residents were “incandescent with rage” and felt “hoodwinked” by the lack of consultation.

Steve Bullock, from Doddington Park, felt the officers that had turned up had been “taken aback” by the number of residents.

“They’ve not really answered any questions,” he said.

“We’re still in the dark as to whether they’re going to come back and stick more poles up on our street.”

There is anger over the lack of communication and consultation carried out by those installing telegraph poles, particularly as planning regulations do not apply to them. | Image: Daniel Jaines

Bill Molloy, who has had a pole built in front of his living room window, said: “They’re happy to upset hundreds of people by putting poles up, but when hundreds of people want to complain about it, they feel intimidated.

“They intimidated us by coming and doing this and not even telling us.”

Following the event, a spokesperson for Spring Fibre said: “A member of Spring Fibre was due to attend a meeting with the Highways Agency and Councillor Bean, however the nature and scope of the meeting changed without notification.

“Our representative was expecting a small informal walkabout with the agency and councillor and given the unexpected change was advised not to attend.”

A Lincolnshire County Council spokesperson added: “The intention of this meeting was that a site engineer would be in attendance from Spring Fibre to answer questions from the councillor about aspects of installation.

“When Councillor Bean turned up amid 50-plus residents it was quickly decided that the representative from Spring Fibre wouldn’t be able to answer any of the wider questions regarding company policy etc.

“Faced with such a large group of people by a roadside, LCC advised the Spring Fibre engineer to not attend.”

They said the officers on site had taken the opportunity to explain the legislation around the installations and the limited powers the authority’s highways department has.

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