Broadband engineers rise to the challenge of protecting wildlife in Lincolnshire

Superfast broadband engineers took special care to safeguard rare wildlife whilst installing fibre optic cables in some of Lincolnshire’s most environmentally sensitive areas.

(picture courtesy of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust)

Superfast broadband engineers took special care to safeguard rare wildlife whilst installing fibre optic cables in some of Lincolnshire’s most environmentally sensitive areas.

They brought in specialist equipment and took expert advice from the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust when carrying out work in Copper Hill and Duke’s Covert, which are both Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) managed by the trust.

Copper Hill Road verges have a particularly rich limestone flora and are the last known Lincolnshire locality for the Chalkhill Blue Butterfly. They are also the most northerly point for man orchid in Britain.

The engineers – from BT’s local network business, Openreach, working on behalf of the Onlincolnshire partnership – had to run new fibre cable through Copper Hill and Duke’s Covert in order to bring the high-speed technology to the village of Welby, between Grantham and Sleaford. More than 6,000 metres of cable and ducting is being laid in the area.

The news comes as Onlincolnshire, the broadband partnership between Lincolnshire's councils and BT, also announced this week that fibre broadband is now available to more than 125,000 homes and businesses across the county.

Richard Davies, executive member for IT at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "The Onlincolnshire project is dramatically improving broadband across the county.

"We're now bringing faster broadband to more than 1,000 Lincolnshire homes and businesses a week, which is a fantastic achievement.

"And you can find out what's happening in your area by visiting our website at www.onlincolnshire.org.

"All people then need to do to enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband is contact their internet service provider and upgrade their package."

Steve Henderson, BT’s regional director for next generation access, said: “BT is investing millions of pounds into the rollout of fibre broadband in Lincolnshire. Some things, like the local environment, are invaluable, so engineers from Openreach always work with care and consideration. We’re grateful to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust for working with us and providing sound advice. It’s also really good news for people living in Welby who can now access fibre broadband services.”

The work at Copper Hill and Duke’s Covert has enabled around 70 properties in Welby to receive access to fibre broadband. The Onlincolnshire partnership with BT plans to reach hundreds more households in the surrounding area whilst carefully avoiding any harm to the protected verges and meadows.

Following advice from the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Openreach engineers brought in specialist equipment that enabled them to blow the fibre cables through the underground ducting from a greater distance than normal to avoid damaging the SSSI sites.

Usually, vehicles and cabling equipment would be placed as near to the manhole cover as possible so that fibre could be blown through from close range. Working further away not only needs different equipment but is more time consuming, requires additional resource and takes greater co-ordination.

John Watt, roadside nature reserve co-ordinator for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Thanks to the initiative of the site engineers, who saw our signage on Copper Hill advising them of the SSSI and Roadside Nature Reserve designations, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust received a phone call asking for advice on how best to protect the site from the planned operations.

“The engineers could not have been more co-operative in devising a plan of action to avoid damage to one of the most important locations in the county for scarce limestone flora. The Wildlife Trust is most grateful to Openreach for their notification of the work to be done and for their help in safeguarding the site. The experience gives us confidence in working with BT if and when future similar occasions arise.”

Figures from BT show that since the start of the year, around 20,000 people in Lincolnshire have upgraded their broadband connection to a fibre package. That’s nearly 550 additional households each week choosing to benefit from faster speeds.

Some of the latest areas to go live include Hemswell, Marshchapel, North Thoresby and Torksey.

And because the work is being carried out by Openreach, residents and businesses wanting to upgrade have a wide choice of service providers, with more than 140 fibre broadband companies now operating in the UK.

Onlincolnshire builds on BT’s commercial fibre rollout in the county that has already reached more than 166,000 homes and businesses.

Benefits of fibre broadband include faster download and upload speeds; the ability to access the internet via multiple devices without experiencing a slow connection, faster downloads of films and music, a better online gaming experience, improved file sharing for businesses, solutions based on Cloud computing and being able to work more flexibly.

For more information about the Onlincolnshire partnership between Lincolnshire councils and BT please visit www.onlincolnshire.org