Cheshire East Council is set to act to ensure new developments are ‘future-proofed’ with high-speed broadband access.
A report to Cabinet will recommend that all new residential and business premises should be required to be ‘broadband ready’ and built with capability for ‘state of the art’ high-speed internet connectivity – rather than wait to have the work done later.
The aim is to ensure new properties can access a wide range of services and benefits from day one – including assistive living technology for the elderly, disabled or vulnerable, to support people to live independently.
Currently, new EU rules on superfast broadband access will not apply to new premises until January 2017.
However, the Council aims to make it a requirement for planning consent during 2015.
The move will anticipate the future needs of residents and businesses and prevent the need to retrofit properties at greater cost, 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.”
As part of the Council’s strategy to increase the sustainability of new developments and raise their quality and local distinctiveness, the authority is currently working on producing a Cheshire East Design Guide. This guidance for developers will now include clear reference to a requirement to provide superfast broadband facilities.
High-speed broadband to a home or business will future-proof properties for the growing demand for the internet, which is seeing data consumption doubling every year.
The next phase of innovation is widely predicted to be the ‘internet of things’, in which internet connectivity will be commonplace in a whole range of devices in the home and office – from washing machines and lighting to smart energy meters.
The Council is leading the way with its partners to boost superfast broadband provision 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 £28.5m project is providing fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses. This builds on BT’s commercial investment so that 96 percent of Cheshire – around 400,000 premises – will have access to speeds of up to 80mbps by the end of 2015.
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 project signed between four Cheshire councils and BT for a second phase ‘superfast extension programme’.
The project will reach those areas outside of any commercial broadband roll-out using a partnership approach to ensure all communities have access to the fastest possible broadband speeds. For more information visit www.connectingcheshire.org.uk