The firm responsible for providing TV signals from a transmitter on the North York Moors to 670,000 households is facing calls from elected community representatives across the political spectrum to reveal when residents can expect full coverage to resume.
The leaders of North Yorkshire Council’s Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour, Independent and Green groups said residents who were continuing to suffer patchy coverage deserved to be given the firm’s approximate date for completing works on a replacement mast to one destroyed in August 2021.
More than 20 months after fire wrecked Bilsdale transmitter, and five months after the area’s MP Rishi Sunak said he had received assurances that full services would resume by Spring, Arqiva has declined to name a month for the completion of its works on the North York Moors.
After being repeatedly asked on Thursday when residents could expect the new 314m-high transmitter to be operational, a spokesman for the firm said: “It is meteorologically dependent at the moment.”
In November, apologising for “ongoing disruption” to residents, Arqiva’s chief officer Shuja Khan said the firm was working to restore full services in “a significantly shorter timeframe” than the two-year period such projects were expected to take.
Leading members of North Yorkshire Council said given that the half-way mark of Spring on the meteorological calendar had been reached, Arqiva owed residents across North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and County Durham an explanation over its progress.
North Yorkshire Council’s leader, Councillor Carl Les said he “fully accepted the difficulties and inconvenience” that residents were having due to intermittent outages and poor signals.
The Conservative politician added: “It was an unprecedented disaster for Arqiva and it’s been a big task for them to get a replacement into place, but I would hope they will stick to their prediction of Spring.
“We are now well into Spring and it’s only right that they should give us an approximate date even if there are reasons that gets delayed for unforeseen circumstances.”
The authority’s Independent group leader, Councillor Stuart Parsons, said residents’ TV programmes were still frequently being interrupted by a loss of signal 20 months on from the fire.
He said: “Arqiva reassured the Prime Minister it would all be done by Spring. If the reassurance they gave him isn’t worth the paper it is written on it’s rather worrying. It’s very unfair people are still having to pay their TV licence for a botched service.”
North Yorkshire’s leader of the opposition, Liberal Democrat councillor Bryn Griffiths, said given Spring had arrived Arqiva should be able to forecast within a few weeks of when full services would be restored.
The authority’s Green group leader, Councillor Kevin Foster said some residents in remote areas such as the Yorkshire Dales were continuing to suffer from very poor reception.
He said: “To not give a timeframe is just not good enough. They want to work without a deadline. At the moment it sounds like they are saying ‘when we will get round to it we will do it’.”
Councillor Steve Shaw Wright, the council’s Labour group leader, said it was “appalling” that a better intermediate temporary resolution had not been provided to residents.
He said: “I was watching pictures from Mars yesterday and we have had TV signals for nearly a century and yet we can’t even get a get a signal across the North York Moors. It’s unfathomable. Rishi Sunak needs to do something now.”