Category Archives: News

Work on Brentor’s new broadband network about to start

West Blackdown homes will be connected to a new fibre broadband network by June, thanks to the Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme.  They will benefit from the latest high speed ‘fibre to the premises’ technology.

Others in part of the village centre can also get free connection but only if enough properties register for it! If 25 homes in the north side of the village centre JUST REGISTER INTEREST in the USO scheme, a cluster of 31 properties will be offered FREE CONNECTION to the new network……….. and more could follow.

The government-funded USO scheme allows Openreach to claim a grant of £3,400 for each of 70% of eligible properties, whether they register or not. That’s 22 of the 31 in the cluster, leaving a shortfall of £8,358 to be raised locally.  BUT THERE IS AN EASY WAY TO GET FREE CONNECTION – 25 people in the cluster just actually need to register interest in the USO scheme! The extra USO grant (3 x £3,400) will cover the £8,358 shortfall and EVERYONE IN THE CLUSTER WILL BE OFFERED FREE CONNECTION.  BT confirms that if you register interest there is ABSOLUTELY NO COMMITMENT to sign up later for a fibre connection.

SO PLEASE REGISTER!  We’ve been moaning about our poor broadband service for years and here’s a chance to do something about it free of charge and with no financial commitment!  So far only about 18 properties have registered – WHERE ARE THE REST OF YOU?  The number to call to register is 0800 783 0223.

It doesn’t help that BT won’t tell us which properties are in the cluster of 31.  The USO help desk says that it doesn’t know how many properties have signed up so far!  We just have to trust BT and Openreach to tell us when we get to the required number – not  a very satisfactory situation for a government-funded scheme that’s supposed to benefit our community.

But it does help that a number of residents in the cluster of 31 who are currently connected to Airband are now being offered Universal Service Obligation funding, despite the rule that only houses with less than 10mbps are eligible for it.  They have been told that their connection is deemed not sufficiently reliable to count as being over 10mbps.  If you already have an Airband connection but are unhappy with its speed and stability, it will be worth contacting the USO help desk to see if you can register for the USO scheme.  The telephone number is 0800 783 0223.

BT’s Crowdfunding scheme

Registering for the USO seems to be the best chance for most of our village to get a free fibre network.  Until we were told about the possibility of free connection by registering 25 properties, the large sums quoted by BT for a fibre broadband connection seemed to make connection impossible.  BT has been criticised by Ofcom for the way it has asked individual properties to pay the full excess connection cost for an entire cluster. So, to spread the cost of connection, BT’s response has been to pilot a crowdfunding scheme in our village to encourage Brentor villagers to band together to raise the funding required. The company has engaged the spacehive.com website to enable everyone to get together to pledge the funding needed.  This is a pilot rollout of BT’s crowdfunding scheme, which, if successful, could be implemented nationwide.

Letters like the one here have been landing on residents’ doormats since the beginning of February in the cluster of 31 properties from the War Memorial to Hammer Park, in Church Lane and Station Road.  The ‘someone’ mentioned is, in reality, BT!  We might be forgiven for feeling that the crowdfunding initiative is rather a diversion from getting free connection by simply registering. You can make up your own mind whether or not you contribute. The shortfall of £8,358 to build the network is really not a lot of money – in fact so little that it seems incredible that a £multi-billion company like BT/Openreach couldn’t find it without paying a crowdfunding company to help!  Bearing in mind that Openreach will own the network, and will automatically receive over £70,000 in government funding, they will be getting a bargain even if they pay the excess cost.  BT will be making money from their broadband ISP charges, so it’s a winning situation for BT and Openreach.

But what about the rest of Brentor parish?

Another ‘cluster’ in Brentor comprises 13 properties in the Darke Lane area, who have been quoted £36,871 to be connected – that’s over £2,800 per property. This cluster is currently not part of the pilot crowdfunding initiative. We should question why it costs so much more to connect these properties compared to others in the middle of the village – some will be very much nearer to the new fibre cable than houses in the cluster of 31.  However, once the cluster of 31 is connected, BT suggest that residents in the 13 cluster should re-apply for connection through the USO scheme and may receive a much more favourable quotation!  A pity that they can’t do this straight away to give us all some hope and encouragement!

The Liddaton and Lydford Station areas of Brentor Parish are even more disadvantaged regarding their broadband connection and are served from the Chillaton and Lydford telephone exchanges. Residents in these areas are working hard to find other ways of connecting to a fibre network.

BT and Openreach have managed to turn what should have been a positive and beneficial project for Brentor into a complex and frustrating experience for residents.  It is unfair and divisive to split a small village community into arbitrary ‘clusters’ with vastly different installation costs. Openreach needs to explain clearly why the costs vary so widely.  But really it’s about time that they get their act together and get our network built within the generous funding parameters of the USO scheme.  If they can do it free of charge for the spread-out West Blackdown community they should be able to do it for the rest of our village.

It’s not easy to understand the facts about the Universal Service Obligation scheme.  If you want to contribute to the information in this article please contact the website editor at brentorvillage@btinternet.com.

For more information about how this issue has evolved in Brentor click here

You can check your broadband speed by clicking here.

Affordable housing update

West Devon Borough Council has announced that, at Hammer Park, Brentor, the Council will now be applying for planning permission to provide:

  • five affordable rented homes
  • four shared ownership homes
The change from providing some discounted homes to shared ownership is apparently to enable the Council to apply for government funding towards the project.
If you have connections to Brentor and you are interested, please email Affordable.Housing@swdevon.gov.uk or call 01822 813722. #housing #affordablehousing

Community Housing for Brentor – Borough Council moves forward

The issue of constructing community housing at Hammer Park in Brentor has been ongoing for 10 years.  It now appears that at last there may be some real progress in moving the project forward.  West Devon Borough Council issued the following statement on 27th January 2021:

Community Housing Update
Many of you will be aware that West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) has been working with the Parish Council on a potential affordable led, community housing scheme for Brentor.  The proposal would be for 12 houses, 2 x 3 bed & 2 x 2 bed shared ownership properties, 5 x 2 bed rental properties and 3 x 3 bed open market properties.  Following a lengthy design process and engagement with Dartmoor National Park planning department and an internal review of the business case, WDBC intends to submit a planning application in the next 2 months.

It is hoped that this application is successful and, if it is, officers will be able to take a report to the HUB Committee and to Full Council for a decision as to whether to proceed to the detailed design, tender and ultimately construction of the project.  It would represent an investment of over £2m by West Devon Borough Council and there are risks associated with it, including having to spend around £85,000 at risk to undertake the detailed design, so this would be a significant decision.  Should the project proceed to construction it would be self-financing using long term borrowing.  Until a tender exercise is undertaken the actual cost of construction remains unknown, and only at that stage would we be able to make a final decision to move forward to construction.

For now however, West Devon Borough Council is pleased to be submitting the planning application, having spent a significant amount of time and Government grant funding to get to this point and wishes to thank the community and Parish Council for their ongoing support and patience.

Chris Brook, Director – Place and Enterprise
South Hams District Council /West Devon Borough Council

Cemetery repairs

The wall and pillars at the entrance of the Old Methodist Cemetery are in need of some attention.  It is not known at this time if they can be repaired or if a full replacement is needed. 

Applications are now invited for quotes for either situation.  Please contact the clerk for further information, or if you would be interested in quoting for the job prior to the next Parish Council meeting on 15th February 2021.

You Count – Sign up for paid election roles now

Planning for the next elections, which are scheduled to take place on 6 May 2021, is well and truly underway.  Local people are invited to sign up now to fill a number of essential paid roles at polling centres across the Borough.

Polling stations are located in towns and parishes across West Devon and need to be staffed by a team of Polling Clerks and Presiding Officers. To sign up as a Polling Clerk you don’t need any previous experience as full training is provided.  The role of Presiding Officer requires previous experience of polling duties and training will also be provided.  The cost of training is fully covered and participants in the training are paid to attend.  There are also Counting Assistant roles on 6 May in the evening and on 7 and 10 May in the daytime, where no experience is necessary.

At the moment, the plan is for these vital elections to go ahead whilst following strict COVID-safe guidelines.  Anyone working in the polling stations or at the counting stations can be reassured that their safety, and the safety of the public, will be a priority.

Team members are needed for elections taking place for the Town and Parish Council by-elections, Devon County Council elections and the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner election, which was postponed from May 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Applications for the roles are invited from local people who can work on any of these events. To apply for a role you must not be politically active, must be over 18 years old and be able to travel to a polling station or count venue.
West Devon Borough Council is putting arrangements in place to help ensure polling stations are safe places to vote. The public and staff can expect to find at the polling booths many of the measures we’ve all become used to over recent months in shops and banks. This includes hand sanitiser, floor markings and face coverings. The latest guidance will be followed. If COVID-restrictions mean the planned elections are unable to take place in May, recruits will be able to take the roles when the elections do occur.
If you’re interested in joining the team, please head to: www.westdevon.gov.uk/elections-recruitment . Here you’ll find more information on the roles being recruited and you can sign up to register your interest.

For more details on the local elections please go to:  www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter

Avian influenza (bird flu): Latest situation

New bird housing measures are now in force in England, Scotland and Wales.

Click on the following link to find out more – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/avian-influenza-bird-flu-national-prevention-zone-declared

The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales have brought in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds, following a number of cases of avian influenza in both wild and captive birds in the UK.

Whether you keep just a few birds as pets or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:

·         housing or netting all poultry and captive birds

·         cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing

·         reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and using effective vermin control

·         thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle

·         keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures

·         minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

Register your birds

All keepers are encouraged to register their birds so that the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) can contact you quickly if there is a disease outbreak in your area and you need to take action.

If you have more than 50 birds, you are legally required to register your flock within one month of their arrival at your premises. If you have less than 50 birds, including pet birds, you are still strongly encouraged to register.   Find out how to register your birds.

Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301.  Keepers should familiarise themselves with our avian flu advice.

Public Health England advise the risk to public health from the H5N8 and H5N2 strains of bird flu is very low.

The Food Standards Agency has said that on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.  Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Ofcom to investigate BT over rural broadband implementation

On 15th October 2020 Ofcom announced that it is launching an investigation into how BT is implementing the Universal Service Obligation Broadband scheme.  This follows numerous complaints about the high quotations being given to rural residents for connection to new fibre broadband networks being built through the scheme.  Brentor residents have received outrageous quotes for such connection, although some, in the West Blackdown area, are now to get free connection having complained about their original quotes of over £40,000 per property.

Click here to find out more about Ofcom’s investigation into BT.

Residents who have received high quotations for connections should get in touch with Ofcom to give evidence to their investigation.  They don’t resolve individual complaints but the more people who complain the better!  You can telephone Ofcom on  0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040
The case reference number is CW/01256/10/20 and the case leader is Sophie Mackie.  Her email address is sophie.mackie@ofcom.org.uk

Brentor Village Hall closed again

Brentor Village Hall

During the second pandemic lockdown period the Village Hall will be closed completely once again.

As regulations and the law changes the Village Hall and Playing Field Committee is constantly having to adapt and provide a safe environment for users, sometimes with little notice. The committee has sought guidance from Devon Communities together and West Devon Borough Council and will continue to do so.

You can contact the Committee if you have any questions by emailing brentorvillagehall@gmail.com

Drainage and hedge maintenance – who is responsible?

The recent storms have brought the issue of road drainage into sharp focus.  Drain and ditch clearance has always been important in Brentor, but the effect of climate change, bringing heavier and more frequent rain and storms, is now making this even more vital.
Significant public funding is invested by Devon County Council in their programme of ditch clearance to drain the water from the highway.  However, in the majority of cases, the responsibility for ditch maintenance rests with the adjacent landowner, even if the ditches take water from the highway.  Therefore local authority funding is being used to undertake works which are, in part, the responsibility of landowners!  This is reducing the funds available to undertake works which really are the authority’s responsibility.

It is often illegal to block drains that take water from the highway onto adjacent land, even if it is your property.  Also landowners and occupiers are required by law to trim any hedge next to the public highway where the growth is preventing the passage, or affecting the safety, of the highway user.It’s worth taking a look at the following documents if you own property by a road:
• A factsheet titled Roads and farmers produced by Devon County Council.
• Information regarding overgrown vegetation is available on the Devon County Council website here by clicking here.

Village Hall rebuild put on hold due to the pandemic

Brentor’s Village Hall and Playing Field Committee has been looking for ideas on how to move forward with rebuilding the main hall of the Village Hall.  They are a registered charity, whose duty is to run the Village Hall and Playing Field for the benefit of our community.s

Although the Hall was improved with a new kitchen, toilets and store in 2010, the old part of the building, dating from 1912, has significant problems with its fabric.  About 20 villagers (including most of the Parish Council) went to the meeting earlier this year about future plans for the Hall and heard from Sheryl Burroughs, the Chair of the Committee, that a structural survey of the hall has revealed that the Hall’s outer cladding will need complete replacement.  There is also a great need to address the condensation problem of the old building, relating to its lack of insulation.  Click here to read the full Village Hall Structural survey.

Many attendees at the meeting expressed a great love for the Hall in its present form, but the meeting overwhelmingly came to the conclusion that it would be far wiser to attempt to rebuild the Hall, enabling it to be properly insulated and to improve the quality of its provision for our village, rather than trying to continually repair the existing building.

The Village Hall and Playing Field Committee has set up a sub-committee to progress the rebuilding of the main hall.  It met in October 2020.  Due to the large sum of money that will be needed to rebuild, it was clear that a substantial amount would need to be won from sources such as the National Lottery and previous funders of the village hall such as the Biffa landfill tax fund.  Sadly the biggest potential funder, the National Lottery, is currently, and for the foreseeable future, only funding pandemic recovery items .

Therefore the Committee has decided to put the work on rebuilding the hall on hold.  Much of the background work has been done in planning for the rebuilding, and there is substantial experience from the initial refurbishment of the hall done in 2010, so hopefully when the financial situation becomes more easy this project will be able to do ahead.

Community Housing

There has been very little obvious progress since July 2019.  There is still no sign of a planning application, but it is understood that the scheme’s plans have been amended by the architects to reflect the views given at the open days.

Brentor Parish Council released the following statement on 18th July 2019:

PROPOSED HOUSING 

Figures have now been collated from the Housing Needs Survey conducted in July 2018 and the 2 public presentation days.  

The presentations were very well attended and figures show that the development is oversubscribed by local people who will be eligible to live there.

The latest data indicates a need for 11 affordable homes and 6 open market homes, which meet the criteria for an affordable development as required by WDBC and DNPA.  The planned development remains fixed at 12 properties.

Further progress has been slightly delayed due to the recent elections, but it is understood that the plans will be submitted to DNPA shortly with a planning decision expected in September.  Construction should then commence late Autumn or early next year.

 Further information will be published as and when it is received.