Saturday, 1 November 2014

Superfast Stocksfield!

Superfast broadband is here (mostly)

First the good news. In September and October six of the seven fibre optic broadband cabinets served by the Stocksfield telephone exchange went live and are now accepting orders from customers. These are:

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Cabinet 6

Cabinet 6 on Painshawfield Road (opposite Snowdrop Cottage) went live today.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Superfast broadband expands

As of today, the following Stocksfield Exhange cabinets are now live and accepting orders for superfast broadband:

Cabinet 1 - junction of Painshawfield Road and Apperley Rd
Cabinet 3 - Station
Cabinet 4 - Mickley Square
Cabinet 5 - Main Rd opp Cadehill Road
Cabinet 7 - Main Rd, Branch End, outside Boots

That just leaves
Cabinet 6 - Painshawfield Rd opp Snowdrop Cottage: expected by end of October
Cabinet 2 - Meadowfield Rd: still looking at into next year before this one goes live.

Check which cabinet you're on by entering your phone number at: 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Stocksfield is going live: superfast broadband

Today I got some great news -- two of the Stocksfield telephone cabinets are now live and are acceptting orders for superfast broadband. To recap, there are seven telephone cabinets on the Stocksfield exchange:

Cabinet 1 - junction of Painshawfield Road and Apperley Rd
Cabinet 2 - Meadowfield Rd
Cabinet 3 - Station
Cabinet 4 - Mickley Square
Cabinet 5 - Main Rd opp Cadehill Road
Cabinet 6 - Painshawfield Rd opp Snowdrop Cottage
Cabinet 7 - Main Rd, Branch End, outside Boots

I got the following information from iNorthumberland today.

Cabinets 5 and 7 are now live
Cabinets 3 and 4 are expected any day now
Cabinets 1 and 6 should be live during October
Cabinet 2 is a bit further off - probably into 2015.

I’m on Cabinet 5, so in the interests of journalism (!) I’ve just ordered a superfast service.  (Remember, you can find out which cabinet you're connected to by visiting BT's broadband checker site.) You can buy your service from a number of providers but I guess that many people are with BT and may wish to stay with them. As I've been with Plusnet for a while I thought I'd go with their service. The maximum speed available on my cabinet is a whopping 80 Mb per second! However, I went with Plusnet's cheaper 40 Mb service to begin, with a view to upgrading in the future if I think I need the extra speed.

Here's what you need to know. Because this is a new technology, it is incompatible with standard ADSL broadband. So, I will soon be receiving a visit from a BT technician (as BT still handle the wires) who will replace my current master phone socket with a new fibre compatible one. The technician will also install a fibre broadband modem on that socket. All of this is free of charge. Next, Plusnet are sending me a new router as my current ADSL router is not compatible. This new router is also free (though they are charging me six quid for postage). I see from BT's web site that they will supply a free Home Hub 5 for use with their fibre service.

Monday, 7 July 2014

New Ridley: Decision on False Premises?

Recently I posted some thoughts on the council's complete reversal in its thinking when it chose to approve the planning application for the development at New Ridley. One of the reasons for the decision that I picked up was that the county is concerned that 80% of planning decisions are overturned on appeal. However, a quick look at the Planning Inspectorate's own figures (see page 77) reveals almost the exact opposite to be true: for the Northumberland County Council planning authority in 2013-14 68% of appeals were dismissed.

Was the decision made on a misunderstanding of the facts?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Northumberland's Teenager Tax: Post-16 transport and rural disadvantage

So, there is something of a storm brewing at the moment over the Northumberland County Council's (NCC) decision to axe free travel to post-16 students from this September. This comes in just at the time that the law is changing to make it compulsory for children to stay on at school until the age of 18.

Friday, 27 June 2014

New Ridley: End of the road...

I was deeply disappointed by the about turn of the council last week when it approved the development in New Ridley. I thought we had a really good case for the following reasons.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

New Ridley: Approval Recommended

Today I received a copy of the County Council planning officer's report on the New Ridley application which is being decided next Wednesday. Unfortunately, and despite the council rejecting the original application, the planning officer has again recommended conditional approval.

You can read the planning officer's report in full by downloading it here.

Monday, 9 June 2014

New Ridley: Amended plans and planning committee

Amendments and planning committee date

There have been some amendments to the New Ridley plan and a date has been set for the planning committee.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

A Speedy Delay

Just as we approach the end of the period in which we thought we were going to get super fast broadband, there has been another delay, and we're now looking at some time in August before the service goes live.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Connecting the Cabinets

If you were inconvenienced by the temporary traffic lights along the A695 today, it may lessen the annoyance to know it was all in the good cause of super fast broadband. Today Openreach (the BT company that installs and maintains the infrastructure) were at the new cabinets along the A695 installing the main fibre optic cable that will link them to the main network.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

New Ridley: Appeal and New Application

The deadline for making representations on the New Ridley planning appeal looms fast, so I thought I'd outline the basic points I am making in my response. Before I do that, I will mention that Esh have now also submitted a new planning application to build 16 houses rather than the original 22. I am assuming that if the appeal goes in their favour then they will withdrawn the new application and proceed with the original, so this looks like Plan B in case the appeal is unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Rollout pushed back to May

A quick update to let you know that the Stocksfield fibre cabinets are now due to go live in May and not March/April as previously advised. We're not sure of the reason for the slippage but assume it is some engineering problem.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

March Broadband Update

iNorthumberland have now given a few more details of the planned availability of fibre-optic broadband for the Stocksfield exchange. I've talked about cabinets before, but here are a picture of two cabinets. The one on the top is part of BT's provision and the one on the bottom has been provided through iNorthumberland's scheme.

Here is a table showing the cabinets that are due to go live during March, April, and May:

No. Properties Served
Junction of Painshawfield Rd and Apperley Road
Stocksfield Station
Main Rd opposite Cade Hill Rd
Painshawfield Rd
Branch End (outside Boots)


It is not possible to say yet which properties are included in the total figure of 1273, but it is clear that this covers a good proportion of the exchange area.

The information above (and more) can be found in iNorthumberland's West Area Update which you can download here.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Broadband status update

Since learning that the Stocksfield exchange has been pushed up the queue for fibre optic broadband rollout I have been regularly checking the BT website which tells you the status of the telecoms cabinet that provides your phone and broadband connection. (Just enter your postcode at

Until last week, the Branch End cabinet was showing as a "Future Exchange". Today it is showing as a "Coming Soon" cabinet with a forecast date of June 2014. I am hopeful that it will be even earlier than that, but it's nice to see it approaching all the same.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

What now for rural broadband?

Just as things were looking up for rural Northumberland in the superfast broadband stakes, the county council has taken action which, in my opinion, could leave many rural residents without access to a modern broadband service.

As you may recall from earlier posts, the current rollout of superfast broadband (being undertaken by BT (Openreach) in Northumberland) aims to connect 91% of households to the new fibre optic service. Depending on how far you live from your nearest cabinet this would see you getting speeds from between 2 Mbps and 25+ Mbps. The remaining 9% of premises not covered by the rollout would need alternative provision.

Back in 2011 the county council established the iNorthumberland project to ensure that the remaining 9% of premises would also see some uplift in their broadband speeds. The company formed to deliver this is the Arch Group. However, the county council have just made large cuts to the staff base at Arch Group including the Broadband Manager and his team.

As some of the lowest levels of broadband usage in the country are to be found inNorthumberland I am deeply shocked by the news that key staff at Arch Digital have been removed. If the new broadband delivery team has been slashed then our most rural communities will be the ones to suffer. Our campaigning over the last 3 years has driven the extensive work done to try and deliver broadband to our most rural areas. We need County Hall to stick to its commitment to getting decent broadband to every property, not just those which will be reached now thanks to this Government's funding for BT to rollout to 91% of Northumbrian homes.

Whilst I eagerly await the imminent arrival of superfast broadband here in Stocksfield I know that even here, owing to the rural nature of large parts of the area served by the Stocksfield telephone exchange, there are likely to be a significant number of residents who will not benefit from the 91% coverage. Without the broadband delivery team in place at Arch I am very concerned that these remaining households and small businesses will miss out on a vital 21st century service.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

New Ridley: Have your say on the appeal

As I indicated yesterday, Esh have submitted an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against NCC's rejection of their application to build 22 houses in New Ridley. If you would like to make a representation about the appeal to the Planning Inspectorate you can do so at

The deadline for comments is 8 April, and I encourage anyone with an interest in this case to make representations.

Appeal Documents

Mike Easey kindly downloaded all 30+ documents relating to the appeal from the NCC web site (see 

These have all been assembled into a single PDF file which you can download here. Note, it's a 54MB file, so until we get our superfast broadband it could take a little while to download. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Superfast coming soon! Just as NCC makes the head of Arch redundant

In my last update I talked about cabinets and BT's rollout plans. There have been some recent developments that merit a further update.

Spring is here

You may have noticed new green boxes sprouting up on pavements around the village. These are the cabinets that will provide the new superfast broadband. Three have appeared on the A695: one outside Boots, one opposite the entrance to Cade Hill Road, and one down by the railway station. Here are a couple of pictures of the new one at Branch End outside Boots.

It's not terribly pretty, and I'm not sure why it has been placed so far from the wall, but at least it will be giving us faster broadband!

In the original rollout plans the Stocksfield exchange was scheduled for the fibre optic broadband upgrade in late 2014. Some recent scheduling changes mean that Stocksfield has now been brought forward a quarter and some householders could be benefiting from a superfast connection very soon,  several months earlier than originally anticipated. Details on which cabinets will go live and in what order will be provided nearer the time, but I am working with iNorthumberland to organise a publicity event to take place in April to let residents find out full details of what will be available and when.

Problems at Arch

No sooner does it look like the superfast broadband rollout is picking up than NCC have decided remove the head of Arch, the company set up to oversee Northumberland's broadband rollout. Anne-Marie Trevelyan from Berwick gave her perspective earlier today:
I am very dismayed by today's announcement that Northumberland County Council have decided to make the recently appointed director at Arch, responsible for broadband rollout, redundant- just as all the key work needs to be done to reach the 90% of premises included in the first rollout, and then work on some clever planning for the last 10% presently not planned for.
Perhaps the Labour administration's focus on making these bad budget cut decisions (which will have longterm negative impact on the future economic development of rural Northumberland), explains why no-one from County Hall was lobbying Westminster to ask for a fair proportion of the next £250 million announced today.
Due to Labour councillors' lack of interest in the economic future of rural Northumberland, we have only been allocated £650,000- against North Yorkshire's £10million or Durham's £3.8 million.  When will our elected representatives start fighting our corner?
I have written to the Secretary of State, Maria Miller MP, at DCMS today to try to find out why we have had such a poor commitment, & what we can do to access more funding, since we have one of the hardest to reach areas left to get broadband to in Northumberland.  Funds should flow to these areas rather than to those easy-to-fulfil (& probably economic for BT anyway) through expected growth.
Rural Northumberland deserves a better deal & a fair share of resources from local & central Government.

New Ridley: Appeal


On 17th July last year we celebrated the rejection of the planning application in New Ridley. The deadline for the developers to appeal was this month and it seems that Esh have, indeed, submitted an appeal against the planning decision.
Since July the following planning applications have been approved which will doubtless be giving the developers some succour: