Broadband update – Christchurch transmitter now delayed until late October


New information about superfast broadband provision in Brentor has come to light following the open meeting held on 18th September 2017 in the Village Hall. 
Matt Barrow from Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) and Simon Palmer from Airband were present at the meeting hosted by Brentor Parish Council.

The following were the main points that came to light from the discussions at the meeting:-

  • Brentor is the last parish on Dartmoor where the Airband installation is still being completed.
  • The transmitter on Christchurch tower is still not live because the agreement between Airband and the owners of the Bearwood Farm site (which was to have relayed the signal to the church) broke down when Airband asked to erect an additional relay dish to serve the church tower. The Christchurch transmitter cannot now go live until a different relay site is found. The audience questioned why the contract with suppliers of relay sites was not more robust and why a radio relay dish had not been installed when the Bearwood mast went up. Cash flow for Airband appeared to be an issue, so such equipment is not pre-installed.
  • Airband are urgently surveying for another relay site and Mr Palmer said that they are looking at the possibility of relaying from a different existing transmitter, from a new roadside pole or from a temporary mobile mast on a trailer.  He said that Airband now has ‘Code Powers’ that allow them to erect poles up to 20m high without planning permission.
  • It is hoped that the Christchurch transmitter will now go live at the end of October (which is 18 months later than originally promised at the broadband meeting in Mary Tavy in November 2015).
  • Because the transmitter mast on Christchurch is below the level of the four pinnacles of the Church Tower these will obstruct the signal, and quite a few properties, even those near to the Church, will not be able to access a direct Airband service.  Therefore such properties will have to get their signal via relay transmitters on houses already subscribing to Airband who can directly see the Christchurch mast.  Matt Barrow said that Airband users who allow their properties to be used for this purpose are compensated.
  • Mr Palmer said that Airband will actively tell Brentor residents by email whether or not they should get an Airband signal by the time that the Christchurch transmitter becomes operational.  A postcode search on the CDS website will also provide this information from the end of September 2017.  (It should be noted that some residents in Brentor have already gone through the experience of being told that they can get Airband, only to be told after a local survey that it is not available after all due to trees, buildings etc in the line of sight).  Matt Barrow said that all of this will be contingent on the contracts of the other landowners of Airband transmitter sites not breaking down in a similar way to the Bearwood contract.  He also suggested to Mr Palmer that Airband should come to the village for a couple of days and provide a free surveying service to encourage potential users to take up the Airband service.
  • For properties in Brentor that do not have line of sight to any existing Airband transmitter (such as most of West Blackdown) CDS and Airband are looking into alternative technologies to provide superfast broadband, including the new ‘Whitespace’ technology.  (This uses the unused band frequencies of the TV channels between those used for Freeview TV channels to provide a sort of ‘long-range WiFi’ that can pass through trees and buildings and does not need line of sight).  There is no funding for this technology to be provided in the current CDS contracts. 
  • Many residents at the meeting felt that it would be better to try to get Openreach to provide a fibre broadband cable across the moor from Mary Tavy, which would increase competition from other ISPs, provide a more reliable telephone service and offer the potential for ultrafast broadband in the future.
  • There will be money from ‘Gainshare’ available to CDS to make further improvements to the Broadband network on Dartmoor.  This will be under active review from the end of September 2017.  (‘Gainshare’ is money refunded to CDS from the public funds provided for the Openreach fibre network on Dartmoor where take up of the service (and therefore income from it) exceeds the original estimates). We were told by Matt Barrow that CDS has an ongoing dialogue with Openreach and BT.
  • Questions about the reliability of the Airband service were asked.  An existing Airband customer said that he was getting a consistent broadband service of over 30Mbs, although this is interrupted by very heavy rain.  Mr Palmer said that all the Airband transmitters have back up power sources so that they do not cease to function in power cuts.  He also said that the broadband speed provided by Airband was ‘throttled back’ to about 30Mbs to make it more reliable in adverse weather.
  • Parts of Brentor not in the National Park and without superfast broadband, such as Liddaton, will be looked at in the next phase of CDS’s work programme.
  • CDS is looking at reintroducing the ‘voucher’ system and this can be used to install an interim solution such as 4G where other broadband is not available.   It was pointed out that 4G is an expensive option for everyday internet provision.
  • CDS were questioned as to why they have allowed Airband to currently have a monopoly on the provision of not only the infrastructure for superfast broadband but also as an Internet Service Provider (ISP).  In November 2015 we were told that the Airband system could be used by any ISP (such as Virgin, TalkTalk etc) but in reality Airband is the only one available.  Apparently in reality the big ISPs are unwilling to use such a small network as Airband. We were told that the Airband contracts have a limitation on how much Airband can charge as an ISP, to prevent them from dramatically increasing their charges.  Airband have also changed their ordering procedure so that prospective clients do not have to provide details of their bank accounts before being surveyed by Airband.  Matt Barrow said that he understood that Airband would be reducing their prices quite considerably in the near future.
  • Concerns over the cost of Airband were expressed at the meeting.  There is a need for clarity over the cost of VOIP telephone provision.  Many Airband users without mobile phone signals will probably opt to keep their copper cable telephone lines to provide a reliable telephone provision.
  • Once the Christchurch transmitter is operational CDS will be arranging training sessions for residents on how to get the most out of superfast broadband.

It was impossible for the meeting to provide all the answers to the concerns about broadband provision for Brentor.  However it has clarified the likely timetable for the Christchurch transmitter to become live.  The question about the provision of a reliable fibre connection between Brentor and the Mary Tavy digital exchange still remains and it would be useful if a similar meeting could be arranged where Brentor residents could talk to representatives from Openreach and BT.

 You can still check your broadband speed by clicking here. (Just click the button marked ‘Start Speed Test’ below the two dials).

For more information about how this issue has evolved click here

Colin Dawes, Editor

Damage to Liddaton Down

Serious damage to Liddaton Down was discovered it on 10th September 2017.  A large, probably four-wheel-drive, tractor with a heavy duty ‘topper’ has been driven around the south-east quadrant of the Down creating a three to four-metre wide track.  It has smashed into a particularly sensitive area  for butterflies which the Brentor Commons Association have been managing for some years and has caused irreparable damage.
Will Walker-Smith, a member of the Association, has spoken to some of the Commoners and they have no idea who has done this.  The Police have visited the site twice and it have recorded the damage as a crime.  The Association is receiving advice from The Open Spaces Society and Devon Wildlife Trust and the damage has been featured in the Tavistock Times and will be on the Western Morning News.  The pattern of destruction is has been recorded using a Drone camera.

Drone image of the damage

Some small trees have already been planted into the illegal access gaps to make it obvious that it is illegal to drive onto the Commons and signs with information about the damage, crime reference number etc will be erected.
The land is owned by the Brentor Commons Association and managed as a wildlife reserve with open access for members of the public.  The Commoners have rights to graze cattle, sheep and pigs, remove stone, turfs,  bracken and sedge from the Common. The commons have not been grazed for many years and have been owned by the Brentor Commons Association since 2004.
It is thought that the track may have been cut to create some form of ‘off-road’ track for either motorised trail bikes or, even worse, for four- wheel drive vehicles.
The area is being monitored on a daily basis and all people are asked to report any incursions to the police or the Brentor Commons Association.

Click here to go to the website Brentor Commons page

Childrens’ breaks on hold at CHICKS in Brentor

It was reported in the Tavistock Times Gazette on 14th September 2017 that CHICKS (Country Holidays for Inner City Kids) will not be hosting breaks for disadvantaged children at its Brentor site  in 2018.  Apparently the charity, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, needs to raise a six figure sum to refurbish and improve the Brentor residential centre, although they will continue to use part of the premises as their headquarters in the meantime.  They will continue to offer breaks for children at their Cornwall and Derbyshire centres.

Food For Thought!

Food for Thought!
Friday 20th October, 7.00pm
at Brentor Village Hall

For something a bit different but along the lines of the great Brentor Curry Suppers, please come along and support a bring and share evening with a Palestinian theme!

Do you fancy trying out a new recipe or make a side dish? Any donations will be really welcomed to make a delicious shared meal before we listen to David Oddie giving an illustrated talk on ‘A Story of Palestine: My personal journey through art and conflict’.

To find out more click here to go to our ‘What’s On’ page

New Housing needs survey to be carried out

Although there has been no obvious movement for some time, the subject of Affordable Housing is still very much an ongoing matter.

Parish Councillors are aware however that the information collected from the Housing Needs Survey conducted some time ago may now be out of date.  In view of this, Councillors are intending to establish current need by means of a new survey.  Once this information has been collected, a meeting will be arranged to discuss the findings. The survey will be accessible to all and Councillors hope to circulate details of it and how to respond within the next few weeks.
Caroline Oxenham,  Parish Clerk

We want your recipes!

This website now has a recipes page, but there’s only a few recipes on it! 
As we all know, lot of Brentor’s social life revolves around cooking and eating with family and friends.  The recipes on the new page have been provided by Brentor residents past and present.  No doubt some have been adapted and improved as the years pass – and they are reminders of residents past and present and of many good times around the table, as well as being household favourites. 
WE NEED LOTS MORE RECIPES!  So please email your contributions – a recipe with a small introductory text – to the editor, Colin Dawes, at . 

Click here to go to the Recipe Book page

Editors needed for the Brentor News

Would you like to edit The Brentor News?
We are looking for one or two more editors to help our existing team.
You would need access to, and some familiarity with, desktop publishing software such as MS Word, MS Publisher, or InDesign etc – and be able to spend about half a day putting the paper together every three or four months on a rota basis.
I think all our current editors would agree that this is a pleasant and interesting ‘chore’ – and one of service to the local community.
If you would like to learn more, please get in touch with any of the existing editors, whose contact details can be found in every
edition of the Brentor News.
John Wheeler – 810083

Brentor Commons Update – August 2017

The seed cases on the broom plant behind the signpost are now hard and dry, ready to burst open with an audible snap when the sun is really hot again.  As we walked around we saw the windblown seeds of willow herb, bird dispersed seeds of rowan, hawthorn and sloe and the ripening helicopters of sycamore.
The rowan do not seem to have a very heavy crop this year, but in some locations the sloes are so dense that I will get enough from just one plant for my sloe gin, whereas in other places the blackthorn bushes are quite empty. Perhaps the frost killed the blossom as it has done on most of our apple trees this year.
When walking around, I commented to Janet that it was so difficult to identify the birds from the briefest of views as they flit from one densely covered bush to another. However, a little later on as we reached the Burcombe gate I spotted a long tailed tit crossing the track. As we watched, it was followed by several more and also by blue tit, great tit, coal tit and willow warbler. This is characteristic of foraging tits at this time of year as they form loosely gathered mixed flocks. These groups are always interesting to watch and they can often contain rarer visitors such as goldcrest or firecrest.
The bracken has now been rolled flat and it is much more pleasant not to feel as if one is walking in a green canyon. If only we could have animals grazing the common, returning it to the lowland heath that it was thirty or more years ago. The grass was once short enough through the summer to picnic and perhaps play football over the whole area.

We are hoping to have a working party to continue improving the access and general habitat of the Liddaton pond on Sunday Sept 23rd from 10.00 until 12.00. All welcome, there will be jobs for everyone. If you require further details please call me on 860445.

Barry Albrighton
Click here to see earlier monthly Commons updates by Barry Albrighton

Ongoing community issues

A new section has been added to this website – ‘Ongoing Community Issues’

This sets out to provide a source of information about issues which are of ongoing concern to our village.  Often these issues first appear on this home page, but require additional space to do them justice.
Click here for information about Broadband provision for Brentor
Click here for information about Affordable Housing provision in Brentor
Click here for information about the possible new railway line through Brentor

Sign up to receive Brentor event reminders by email!

How often do you think ‘I wish I had remembered to go to that!’?
If you sign up for the free village event reminder service that won’t happen again.
For many special village events or activities you will receive an email reminder during the week before the event. Occasionally events are put on at short notice and may only be advertised by this service.
So why not join over 60 households who have already signed up!
To take advantage of this free service just send your email to
Colin Dawes

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