Government publishes a toolkit to support street worksSarah Shepherd
A key focus for the Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review was around barrier busting – alleviating the cost to network deployment. As part of this thinking, DCMS has published a toolkit outlining good practice and recommendations for the street works process of deploying fiber across the UK. The framework is intended to guide local authorities and operators and contractors towards working more collaboratively and ultimately enabling a more efficient roll out.
The toolkit responds to some of the barriers that were highlighted in the BSG published report by Analysys Mason around the varying nature of permit and notices schemes across the UK and the importance of street works in achieving a digitally connected Britain.
The toolkit suggests an “early engagement” approach with points of contact, objectives and expectations set out at a pre-planning stage. The suggested steps within this pre-build stage of the project would include: a LA-operator meeting; information exchange under a Non-Disclosure Agreement; LA-operator information/ issues to cover (the framework suggests a pre-build template agenda and suggestions for areas to cover off include Capital Works plans/ information on restrictions/ commitment to premises connected and new coverage/ evidence of past performance in Street Works). It is then suggested that a final deployment plan be drawn up and agreed to by all participants.
Permitting, noticing and traffic management
As operators will not always know beforehand which streets they might need until they are in the midst of the planning process issues can arise with the 3-month notice periods. A lack of consistency between permitting and noticing schemes can cause further headaches and so the toolkit suggests that LAs work together to standardize rules and criteria for permit and traffic management processes and be flexible and understanding around start dates and finish times.
Physical deployment and reinstatements
Again, differences exist between LAs in their approach to non-compliance in street works with some being more aggressive. Operators therefore will favor those areas with a more reasonable attitude to enforcement. The toolkit highlights common issues and suggests possible courses of action covering areas such as existing condition of the road and overcoming parking difficulties. A warning system is approached rather than automatically applying fines.
The unique challenges that operators face in street works results in deployment works that are high volume (with the logistical difficulties in moving between sites and greater potential for fines and penalties for improper execution), short duration (with the contracting industry preferring the more profitable gas, electricity and water utilities work) and predominantly footway based (where inflexible permits and reactive works beyond the control of operators means jobs cannot proceed as planned. The DCMS toolkit sets out the contractor concerns around these challenges, how deployment is affected and proposes a series of solutions and measures.
The toolkit provides actual templates for both the pre-build meeting and the monthly meeting during the build, in a bid to ensure that the issues and challenges highlighted above are met and dealt with in a collaborative and informed manner.