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Future new-build homes in Cheshire must have superfast broadband

Friday, May 8th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

High-speed broadband must be available to all future new-build homes in Cheshire, if a report is approved by councillors.

A report to Cheshire East Council’s cabinet will recommend that all new residential and business premises will have to be built ready for state-of-the-art connectivity.

Currently, new EU rules on superfast broadband access will not apply to new premises until January 2017.

But Cheshire East is aiming to make it a requirement for planning consent before the end of 2015.

It says the move will anticipate the future needs of residents and businesses and prevent the need to retrofit properties leading to greater cost, greater impact on the environment and lost efficiency.

Caroline Simpson, the council’s director of economic growth and prosperity, said: “The council has acted to ensure all new developments should deliver future-proofed infrastructure and communications systems.

“We will encourage developers to work with broadband providers to ensure that future occupants have access to the best possible connectivity – and by insisting this is installed at the building stage, when it is more logical and cost-effective, rather than having to retro-fit a property at some later date.

“This is another good example of the council putting residents first and planning sensibly and innovatively for the future.”

The proposal is included in the ‘Cheshire East Design Guide’ and is part of the council’s plan to increase the sustainability of new developments.

Earlier this year, two government ministers wrote an open letter to councils in England asking them to ensure new-build properties had access to superfast broadband.

'Ambitious target'

Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey and housing minister Brandon Lewis said high quality broadband is essential for sustainable growth.

“As council leaders, you have a crucial role to play in supporting this ambitious target through your local plans and when considering planning applications to ensure wherever possible commercial and residential new builds are able to access superfast broadband,” the letter stated.

“The policy on this is set out in section five of the National Planning Policy Framework and as such is a material consideration when determining planning applications.”

Cheshire East Council, along with its partners, is boosting superfast broadband access across the whole of Cheshire.

The Connecting Cheshire project was launched in April 2013, and is a partnership of four councils – Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington – and BT.

It is funded by £13.6m from the European Regional Development Fund, £9m from BT, £4m from BDUK with £1.85m provided jointly from the councils.

The first phase of the project, worth £28.5m, is providing fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses and builds on BT’s commercial rollout.

By the end of 2015, it is expected that 96% of Cheshire – around 400,000 premises – will have access to speeds of up to 80Mbps.

In January it was announced that another 10,000 Cheshire homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband by summer 2017 as a result of a £6.5m superfast extension programme signed between the four Cheshire councils and BT.

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