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Work on Fibre GarDen broadband project to resume after 'difficulties'

Friday, August 28th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

On-site work on a community-owned broadband project in Cumbria has been on hold since July, organisers have revealed.

The Fibre GarDen project aims to deliver superfast broadband to 500 properties in the Cumbrian Dales of Garsdale and Dentdale.

After five years of trying to get it underway, construction began earlier this year, with Cable.co.uk reporting that the first fibre had been laid.

But in an update, project bosses said although initial work had gone well, they had come across "difficulties that resulted in a cessation of on-site work in July".

“We have, since then, been putting in place more robust arrangements with our contractor to ensure we can get the project on track at the earliest,” an update from the project said.

“We are disappointed to report that inappropriate heavy machinery was used on Longstone Fell and for the inconvenience this situation caused for the landowner.

“All mitigation works have now been undertaken and our contractor will be undertaking a full network route inspection to ensure that, in future, site works are appropriate to the particular ground conditions.”

The update announced that technology company MAP Group had taken on the task of building the network route on behalf of network infrastructure company ITS Group, and said organisers expect to see “significant progress over the coming months”.

The project’s Defra funding, under the Rural Community Broadband Fund, remains in place with a revised date to submit a final claim of 13 November 2015.

'Deep commitment'

The update added: “We want to use this opportunity to reconfirm to you our deep commitment to this project and to providing the area with high speed fibre to the home (FTTH) superfast broadband.

“After six years of working to bring this project to fruition, our energies remain undented and we wanted to clarify here the key actions we are taking to ensure delivery now begins in earnest.”

A timescale for construction of the network and connection dates for customers are expected to be confirmed at a board meeting on 3 September.

Earlier this year, Cable.co.uk reported that the Fibre GarDen project had finally been given the green light when Cumbria County Council voted to separate it from the wider Connecting Cumbria programme, removing it from the contract with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and so releasing £383,500 it had secured in grant funding from DEFRA’s Rural Community Broadband Fund.

Organisers have previously said the project will initially build 64km of network, constructed from “both ends and to meet in the middle”, with plans to extend it to neighbouring areas at a later date.

The government has set a target of bringing superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps and above) to 90% of the UK by 2016 through its Broadband Delivery (BDUK) project. Its superfast extension programme will extend coverage to 95% by the end of the following year.

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