“Wide variety” of community consulted over Coverdale 5G plans, say project leaders

Tim and Edward Brown and Sarah Close.

Project leaders behind the £6.4 million Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) scheme to bring 5G to Coverdale say a “wide variety of community members” have been consulted on the plans.

MANY says the consultation has aimed to understand residents’ current experiences of connectivity within the area, while gaining knowledge about their hopes and expectations.

The project has faced criticism from some residents who say the consultation process has been poor and the need for the masts to deliver the 5G has not been demonstrated.

Officials say the engagement process has included several themes: community engagement and parish council meetings, as well as one-to-one research interviews as part of an independent study undertaken by Lancaster University Management School.

The research project has been led by Professor Katy Mason.

She said: “Through our interviews we develop an understanding of resident’s experiences, hopes, expectations and concerns of connectivity.

“This information is collected and analysed in accordance with our ethical guidance. We look for patterns in the data –  what people are telling us.

“Our findings are then fed into the MANY project, so that the technical solutions developed are right for the people in the community.”

MANY said the project had heard that the Covid-19 pandemic had heightened connectivity problems.

Working from home, remote schooling and GP appointments were some of the activities that had moved online, but this has proved problematic for Coverdale residents with poor internet connections.

Other residents said unreliable broadband had been an issue for a number of years.

Tim Brown, a farmer from Agglethorpe, said: “Defra assume our systems are online.

“For example, updating records whilst out or registering cattle after their birth – we cannot upload there and then. If we had fast connections, we could do.

“However, we also struggle with unreliable broadband which has been known to go down for weeks; therefore we can’t even take the information home and upload it.”

Tim added: “If we had reliable connectivity we could do so much more. For example, we could put cameras in the sheds so we have a live stream available during calving.

“My son, Edward, has just finished Newton Rigg College and has so many ideas but until there is a reliable connection – inside and out – it is impossible.”

Tim’s partner, Sarah Close, says there is wider implications of a lack of connectivity – the move of people away from the dale.

“Young people tend to move away from the area at working age but they are keen to move back when they are ready to start a family.

“However, it doesn’t offer what families want.”

Sarah adds: “Giving people what they want will bring people to the area; making the area thrive and ensuring its future.”

Leo Morris, manager of The Saddle Rooms restaurant, said: “We have had guests walk out because of the lack of digital connectivity – people expect it and we can’t currently offer it.

“As a hospitality business we have been hit hard by the pandemic which has included having to close for many months and losing key events.

“If we had better connectivity across the site we can ensure our customers and staff are happy and safe but, also, drive the business forward through things like personalised virtual show rounds for weddings.

“We are at a disadvantage because we lack the basics that our competitors have access.”

Saddle Room manager Leo Morris.

North Yorkshire County Councillor, executive member for access Don MacKenzie said: “The last few months have allowed Coverdale residents to have their voices heard about their current connectivity experiences informing not just the project but a programme which can influence future rural connectivity across the country.

“It has been integral to the project to develop this understanding to ensure the right solutions are developed.”

3 Comments

  1. Re’ the proposed instillation of 5G – Yes community members have been consulted, but they have been given a biased view by the Mobile Access team. They have sold it on the need for greater connectivity but 4G would accomplish this without potential dangers to humans and the environment that 5G presents. Leo Morris may get more customers in the short term but as the dangers come to light there will be many members of the public who will be giving the Dales a wide birth and choosing to visit other National Parks instead. Local people may not be so enthusiastic when the flowers and vegetables don’t flourish because there are less insects to pollinate them, and farmer brown will be scratching his head wondering why many of his cattle are developing strange tumors.
    I am not a conspiracy theorist. There is a growing number of reputable scientists around the World who have provided evidence of the dangers. This has had the effect of a number of Countries and closer to home Counties and Towns banning 5G.
    The Mobile access team have not been able to show evidence contradicting these scientist’s other than the few scientists who have dubious connections with those in industry who have a vested financial interest. If they want brave and fair minded enough for the local community to hear both sides of the argument why don’t they together with the ‘independent community network’ and ‘Richmondshiretoday’ give equal space/coverage by inviting the local author Michael J Sparrow to present the counter argument revealing the dangers that accompany 5G?

  2. Poor old MANY. The truth is there was no prior consultation. It’s fair enough for all community members to express their views on both sides. But please…lets not pretend there was a consultation when there wasn’t.
    I hope everyone’s voice has had a chance to be aired in a fair and considered manner. The future belongs to all, especially to the young people.

  3. It was encouraging to read about hard working young business people who are supporting the need for better connectivity in Coverdale, where an increasing number of electors work from home or their own premises.
    While several objectors to the proposals for improved communication in our dale allegedly appear to come from elsewhere, local residents are wondering if the protestors have been influenced by others who seek to further their own conspiracy theories, which maybe ill conceived, and out of touch with reality in this day and age, especially in a rural area.
    The statement by Tim Brown and his young family, together with Leo Morris, from the popular Saddle Room, reflects the views of those who are striving to run a business in our area, and the Planning Authority was prudent to listen to genuine electors, who are registered in our parishes, when they granted permission for the transmission pole at West Scrafton. With 127 poles already in Coverdale, delivering mains electricity and telephone services to our community, the protestors need to have a reality check about infrastructure, as these poles have been in place since electricity and telephones were installed after the last war.
    The majority of the larger poles carry three phase 440 volts and have a substantial transformer fitted on the mast, which enables farms and households to receive 220/240 volts.
    To encourage young people from farming families to develop their skills and make use of the agricultural computer software in the years to come, we need to look beyond our present needs, and help to build a future that serves the farming industry and younger business families in years to come.

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