The ‘ugly’ broadband poles causing a right palava in Oldham

Reporter: Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 28 September 2023

More than 100 people are objecting to plans to erect dozens of of ‘ugly’ and ‘eyesore’ 15m poles carrying a new aerial broadband network across Oldham.

IX Wireless has applied to the council for 29 poles to be installed in various locations around the borough.

But they have been met by a furious backlash from residents who argue they’re not needed and will ‘ruin the appearance’ of neighbourhoods.

The applications in Oldham have been submitted under permitted development rights, meaning they do not require planning permission from the local authority.

Despite being advertised for comments on the planning portal website, Oldham council has confirmed that these applications cannot be called into the planning committee to be debated – or refused.

Instead they have to be ‘determined’ with 56 days, or they will be deemed to have been granted.

The plans show the poles to be 13m high, with an antennae box on top taking the total height to 15m, below the height that would require planning permission.

Council leader Arooj Shah said they are ‘frustrated’ by the way that permitted development rights ‘cut local communities out of decisions that affect them’.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that they had written to the government asking permitted development policies to be changed.

IX Wireless says they will facilitate the creation of a ‘gigabit capable electronic communications network’ which can deliver broadband speeds of up to 300Mb – compared to Oldham’s current average download speed of 58.57 Mbps.

The poles have already appeared in other areas of Greater Manchester, including Bolton where they have proved highly controversial with residents.

People have carried out protests against their installation, and councillors from all parties have slammed the roll-out as causing ‘street clutter’.

In August Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi wrote to the government demanding more scrutiny of the permitted development rights used to install the ‘ugly’ poles.

There have been more than 130 objections lodged against 12 of the 29 planned poles in various locations in Oldham.

The proposal attracting the greatest opposition is at Denbydale Way in Royton, to which 90 concerns have been officially lodged through the council.

Objectors criticise the use permitted development rights to erect the poles, and argue they cause street clutter, are visually intrusive, an eyesore for people living nearby, and could lower house prices.

Residents also argue that they already get good Wifi coverage and the new overhead broadband isn’t required, with additional concerns raised about potential noise from the poles and transmitters.

One objector states: “The masts are, huge, ugly and not in keeping with the area, there is already too much street furniture ruining the appearance of areas and causing obstructions.

"The new mast is not required as we already have adequate provision for internet in the area.”

Another adds: “This will be a complete eyesore and not in keeping with the area whatsoever.

"It will also devalue houses around the vicinity of the unsightly post and box.”

And another objector states: “This is supposed to be part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda, it’s the opposite of levelling up.

"On a local and regional basis, the masts will cause unsightly obstructions to all that live in the area, putting residents at a disadvantage to significant social and commercial benefits.

“People from other parts of the country will view the North as no longer a place of beauty, but a complete eyesore with street clutter that is incongruent to the area.”

“I’m gobsmacked,” a different objection states.

An IX wireless pole

“How can the council even consider erecting a 15m pole adjacent to private properties on a popular housing estate.

"It will be an eyesore for lots of local residents and will, no doubt, affect the value and saleability of their properties in the future.”

Coun Shah said: “Labour councillors are really frustrated by the way that permitted development rights cut local communities out of decisions like this that affect local residents, we’ve had lots of worried Oldhamers getting in touch asking us to do something about these because understandably they expect the council to have some say over what happens on our streets.

“We’ve written to the government to ask them to change permitted development rights to allow local communities to have a say on what their streets look like, but it’s been six months and they’ve still not replied.

“The government might have given up on governing and become detached from the issues that matter to Oldhamers but we haven’t, so we’ll continue to make the case that they should change the law.”

The IX Wireless system works from cabinets which are directly linked to data centre centres from which they receive full fibre broadband.

Telegraph poles then carry fibre cables overhead from the cabinet to the transmitter which acts as a broadcasting mast.

The fibre signal is then sent wirelessly from the transmitter to a receiver fitted to the property.

The transmitter is cabled directly to the router, delivering fibre speeds to the router.

A spokesperson for IX Wireless said: “The placement of the poles are within permitted development rules which allow telecom providers throughout the UK to undertake infrastructure work, and local councils are always aware of any work being commenced.

“The latest investment in digital infrastructure will provide the communities in Oldham with much needed gigabit-capable broadband services at a fraction of the cost of other broadband providers.

“We understand that while many people have welcomed investment in the roll-out of digital infrastructure, some people are unhappy with the installation of new poles.

“We believe the only way to level-up the region and move towards a digitally inclusive environment is to invest in a new innovative network which will give people the same opportunities as those across the country otherwise we are at risk of being left behind.

“New infrastructure enables us to provide communities across the North West with more choice, better service and cheaper broadband.”

The 29 poles in Oldham would be based at:

Lees New Road, Oldham
The junction of and Whinberry Way, Oldham
Otley Close, Chadderton
Acacia Road, Oldham
Denbydale Way, Royton
Raymond Avenue, Chadderton
Westminster Road, Failsworth
Propps Hall Drive, Failsworth
Saint Georges Square, Chadderton
Godson Street, Oldham
Gartside Street, Oldham
Glebe Street, Shaw
Athens Way, Lees
Burnley Lane, Chadderton
Shaw Road, Royton
Peveril Road, Oldham
Middleton Road, Chadderton
Hollins Road, Oldham
Mill Gate, Oldham
Lowe Green, Royton
Ashton Road, Oldham
Eldon Street, Oldham
Sickle Street, Oldham
Wimpole Street, Oldham
Cobden Street, Oldham
Ronald Street, Oldham
Buttercup Drive, Oldham
Andrew Street, Chadderton
Arden Street, Chadderton

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