A PUBLIC MEETING has been called for Wednesday 29 November at Hedon Town Hall for a 6 pm start. “The Polegate Scandal! No forcing of telegraph poles on our communities!” is the title of the meeting, although in light of yesterday’s antics, it could be called DANGER! MS3 AT WORK (see below).

The meeting will see Going Underground campaigners give feedback to interested town residents on the campaign so far and crucially will provide an opportunity for more residents to join in the campaign.

TELEGRAPH POLE protests have restarted in Hedon this week following MS3 Networks being given a green light to operate again in the East Riding. By the end of their first day back at work on 20 November 2023, the contractors working for MS3, Welch Civils, had only managed to successfully dig nine holes for poles. However, they had one major mishap – cutting electricity cables and causing a power cut to a property down Fleet Garth. Electricity workers had to come out and fix the problem.

Last night, Going Underground campaigner Julie Dervey had this to say to council officials monitoring MS3’s operating practices:

Further to today’s dig on Fleet Garth, Hedon which has resulted in a power outage for residents, I understand that your inspection team has NOT verified that RAMS protocols (Risk assessments and method statements) are being followed either today since you reinstated MS3’s permits or on previous digs.

I am able to confirm that scanners have almost never been used throughout any of MS3’s digs around Hedon and Preston South, hence why residents have reported that these digs have exposed existing gas/electric/water infrastructure and that the service boards concerned have been called out to check and/or conduct repairs here from day one.

I am aware that RAMS protocols are a legal requirement for every dig due to the massive dangers of cutting through electrics cables, gas pipes, etc. I would have expected that the Health & Safety officers and Poling Coordinators employed at both MS3 and at Welch Civils would also need to be very aware of such legal requirements in order to protect both the public and their own workers but must have intentionally ignored them. This is not only extremely concerning but ILLEGAL behaviour which we are very fortunate has not already caused serious injury or worse.

I hope to hear your response that will include, at the very least, a further suspension of MS3 works with immediate effect.

One of two holes being dug next to each other on Fleet Garth – one of which cut through electricity cables causing power outage.

The actions of the MS3’s pole-planting contractors continue to cause concern among residents. The Going Underground group, in response to residents’ concerns, is photographing and filming Welch Civils’ activities and reporting suspected breaches of council and highway regulations to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC).

Campaigners were pleased that on this first outing for MS3 since the Stop Work Notice issued against them on 1st November, an ERYC streetworks inspector arrived on site to monitor the work and was able to advise them on certain issues. Campaigners and residents watched as the inspector advised Welch Civils workers on the use of a STOP/GO sign at a junction, with an MS3 supervisor having to jump in to operate the manual sign. Since starting work in the East Riding in October, a Freedom of Information request to ERYC has revealed that MS3 Networks have been fined by the council 72 times for breaches of permit conditions.

Welch Civils contractors were recorded yesterday generally using much more carefully placed street signage and traffic management techniques with more staff employed than previously. This is in contrast to the operating practices seen from October 9th until November 1st. Presumably, these poorer working practices are still employed outside of the East Riding, and perhaps residents in Hull need to bring this to the attention of city councillors in Hull?

Going Underground rightly claims credit for raising the issues that led to the ERYC issuing the Stop Work Notice on November 1st. The campaign also claims credit for demanding and getting some improvement in the previously poor operating practices of MS3 and their contractors.

Council Inspector checking on working practices.

Whilst campaigners have been monitoring MS3 on the streets, it is through political lobbying that they also aim to influence the permitted development legislation that allows MS3 to operate in the manner it does i.e. without any community consultation and without due care for health and safety.

Following the meeting with Graham Stuart MP in Parliament on November 8, campaigners are waiting to hear the results of discussions and correspondence between the Beverley and Holderness MP and Sir John Whittingdale OBE, MP the Minister of State for Data and Digital Infrastructure. This will crucially address the issue of clarifying and confirming the powers that local planning authorities (LPAs) have to manage and set conditions for network operators.

Network operators are using the permitted development legislation to build alternative fibre networks. It is believed that LPAs can set conditions for network operators to abide by codes of better conduct and to explore the options of sharing infrastructure and going underground with services rather than the cheaper option of using telegraph poles. The issue of pole proliferation, and measures to avoid this, is also a matter to be clarified. The likelihood of MS3 poles being joined in the future by poles from other competing network builders could see up to four sets of poles being installed down local streets.

Come to the Public Meeting on Wednesday 29 November and find out more.

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