Company apologises for consultation failure over 10-metre poles in Rugby - but says the 'end result will be worth it'

The curious incident of the telegraph poles that appeared in a Bilton road with no warning continues to irritate residents alarmed at the way the company responsible failed to carry out the consultation it pledged to do.

The old tech route to new technology... one of the poles in Alwyn Road.
The old tech route to new technology... one of the poles in Alwyn Road.

As previously reported by the Advertiser, a number of 10-metre poles – in new locations – were put up in Alwyn Road last week, causing bewilderment for everyone living in homes nearby.

There had been no consultation – and a notice was attached to each saying that people could complain, after the installation had taken place.

A Rugby Borough Council spokesman has confirmed the law allows the work to take place without a planning application under permitted development rights. But CityFibre, the high-tech London-based company responsible for the scheme, has a video on its website saying before work takes place, there would be a consultation with residents by a visit and a letter – something that didn’t happen ahead of the poles appearing last week.

The company had announced that it would be working on bringing full fibre to Rugby in a press statement released earlier in September but this made no mention of telegraph poles being needed for such high-tech work, with contractors installing poles right up to people’s boundaries in some cases and clearly visible from their homes.

With the Advertiser happening to be on the spot, we sent a string of questions last Tuesday morning, September 27, about the lack of consultation, what would be done to avoid it elsewhere in Rugby, how many poles would be, the benefit of a complaints procedure being declared after installation – and whether any poles had been removed after complaints.

The questions were sent to City Fibre’s representatives at Weber Shandwick, a marketing communications company that is part of a global business

But by last week’s deadline later that day, a spokesman was able to offer no clear response on why no consultation had taken place nor on the merits or effectiveness of the complaints process.

The Advertiser ran with the comment that the company was ‘sorry to learn of the concerns raised’ but extended the deadline to Monday, October 3, to give its PR team time to respond in more depth.

This week, a spokesperson for CityFibre said: “We are investing £17m to transform Rugby’s digital capabilities through the rollout of our full fibre network. As we carry out works in Rugby, we endeavour to alert the local community before works start in their area, including via direct mails, door knocking, and press releases through the local media.

“We have been made aware that residents of Alwyn Road were not notified before utility poles were installed on their street and are investigating this lapse in our usual high standards. We would like to apologise for this and will double our efforts to ensure communications are issued to local residents and businesses as the build project moves into new areas of Rugby.

“Our team uses a range of build techniques to install our full fibre network and in most cases, we place a small black connection box in the ground or on a nearby utility pole, but this can vary due to the unique environment of each street. We will continue to work in close co-operation with Rugby Borough Council to design and plan the network rollout.

“Our full fibre technology will equip Rugby with the capabilities needed to thrive in the digital age, benefitting businesses and households alike. As our build project progresses, we ask the local community to bear with us and would like to assure them that any short-term disruption will pay off tremendously in the long-term.”

The answer is notable for not addressing the questions raised about the credibility of the complaints procedure offered through the notices attached after installation – and that specific issue of whether any poles had ever been removed following complaints.

A representative from Weber Shandwick denied the company was refusing to comment on this and said it had answered what it was able to do so by the extended deadline.

The Advertiser has asked what deadline the company would need to address that issue and is still awaiting for confirmation of that.

At the time the original press release was sent out by Weber Shandwick announcing CityFibre’s full fibre rollout plans for the town, Cllr Emma Crane, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for communities, homes, digital and communications, said: “I am so pleased that work is under way on CityFibre’s superfast broadband network and look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring to residents and businesses.“We have worked with CityFibre to demonstrate the business case for superfast broadband in Rugby and provide the necessary infrastructure to support their investment.”

The Advertiser has approached Cllr Crane and one of Bilton’s borough councillors, Cllr Lisa Parker, for a response and will bring that to you as soon as it is available.

The original press release gave an outline of the process in Rugby: “Construction work on the full fibre network in Rugby is being delivered by Callan Connect and is scheduled to begin in September. As work is completed in each neighbourhood, CityFibre will designate the homes ‘ready for service’, which means residents can choose to connect to full fibre-enabled broadband services when they go live in their area. Work is set to be ongoing until early 2024.”

In Rugby borough, CityFibre is also covering Binley Woods and will be installing its technology in a number of other Warwickshire towns.