Frustration over B4RN delay in Lune Valley villages

Fibre broadband work in Caton
Fibre broadband work in Caton

Residents in Caton trying to get a community broadband scheme off the ground say they are “appalled” that Lancashire County Council is holding up the project.

Broadband For Rural North (B4RN), a Lancaster based not for profit organisation that works to bring world leading broadband services to rural areas, has already rolled out the service in several north Lancashire villages.

But B4RN teams in both Halton and Caton are having problems getting the county council to sign documents that would allow them to bring broadband cables on to and through the village’s school fields, giving the schools free fast internet, and allowing the service to branch out to more residential properties.

Phil Hughes, who is leading the Caton Broadband For Rural North (B4RN) team, said like Halton, Caton was having problems getting the county council to sign wayleave documents to allow B4RN access to the school field. 
He said: “This is all due to Lancashire County Council demanding money to sign the small, very simple wayleave document.

“Our initial core plan had identified Caton Community Primary School as the ideal place to site a cabinet for the village.

“The school was approached at the end of last year and were very keen.

“To host the cabinet the school would need to provide an electric supply which would be metered and reimbursed either monthly or quarterly.

“In return the school would get a free connection and free service to world beating broadband.”

The B4RN model requires landowners to provide a free wayleave and Phil says North Yorkshire and Cumbria County Councils have both agreed to this.

He added: “I am appalled that LCC are holding up this project that would bring great benefit to the school, residents and businesses of Caton, all for the sake of a small amount of money.”

In Halton, the issues are the same, and the team say their work is being hampered because of the issue in accessing the school field.

Claire Weymouth, headteacher at Halton St Wilfrid’s Primary School, said: “We’ve discussed these proposals with B4RN, which will need to be agreed with the county council.

“The pupils would benefit from getting a high-quality broadband connection, which would assist their learning, so if this can be agreed soon then it would be positive for the school.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We are aware of proposals for a fibre optic connection in Caton and are looking into the issue.”

Last week, County Coun Susie Charles said: “We’re currently waiting for more information from B4RN about their proposal, so that we can consider it.

“We have to assess how this would affect any future requests, such as from other providers and for other sites around the county.”

Caton Community Primary School did not respond to a request for comment.

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