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Cheltenham new-builds must have superfast broadband, says council

Monday, March 2nd 2015 by Hannah Langston

All new homes built in the Cheltenham area will be required to have access to superfast broadband, following a decision by the local council.

Councillor Roger Whyborn (Lib Dems – Up Hatherley) put forward a motion to Cheltenham Borough Council requiring housing developers to commit to providing superfast broadband facilities as part of applying for planning permission.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Cllr Whyborn said: “This emerging policy is sending out strong signals to developers and the public that if an estate hasn’t got broadband then it is a poorly built one.”

Mr Whyborn campaigned for a change in the planning permission process after discovering housing estates in suburban Cheltenham and the outer wards of Gloucestershire were “black holes” for broadband, with many residents unable to get 1Mbps.

He said BT finds it uneconomical to put fibre optic broadband into cabinets in these areas, causing groups of potential customers to be forgotten about.

“They don’t qualify for the local government-funded scheme (Fastershire) and are expected to be self-financed installations. No one wants to know about it.”

Mr Whyborn added that homeowners now expect to have fast broadband, whereas four years ago it was not on anyone’s radar.

He said: “I suspect the market will start to take it on and you won’t be able to sell houses without superfast broadband soon.”

Cheltenham resident Clark Lawson leads a local campaign to get superfast broadband to the Chargrove Lane area of Cheltenham. He welcomed the new motion but acknowledged there are still large parts of the town that will miss out.

“The mix between Virgin working at street level, BT Openreach at cabinet level and Fastershire at postcode level ultimately means there are areas that don't look to be upgraded.

“Our residents campaign’s only option is to privately fund the gap to deliver fibre-to-the-cabinet to over 183 properties as there are no commercial plans or guarantee from Fastershire that they'll deliver more than 30Mbps to everyone in the area," he said.

The planning regulation is subject to a consultation process but is due to come into force in the next 12-24 months.

An EU directive announced last May requires all new buildings and renovated premises to be “high speed ready” from 1 January 2017.

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