Action is being taken to try to ensure that all newly-built homes have essential fibre broadband services ready for homeowners when they move in.
Countywide guidance has been developed by West Sussex County Council in consultation with its partner planning authorities – each of the seven District and Borough Councils. The guidance sets out how the authorities can use the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to ensure that each area’s Local Plan prioritises gigabit-capable broadband connections to new developments.
Steve Waight, County Council Cabinet Member responsible for Digital Infrastructure, said: “Demand for high speed and reliable broadband services is increasing, particularly now many more people are working from home than before the Covid-19 pandemic started. A fast, reliable broadband connection has become vital.
“Buying a home is probably the most expensive outlay that anyone makes in their lifetime and if that home is newly-built, it should come equipped with everything needed to live a comfortable, modern life. Retrofitting full fibre broadband into an existing development is a costly and disruptive process and we know from experience that developers are not keen to do this.
“Without the planning guidance, and in the absence of legislation, it has been difficult to ensure that new developments have the most appropriate connections. There was previously no obligation on developers or operators to provide a high-quality connection as the only pertinent requirements were for a telephone line and ‘functional’ internet access to be available – which could be as slow as basic broadband.
“The Government is intending to remedy this through publication of its New Homes (New Development Standards) Bill, but this has yet to progress through Parliament and we and our partners are taking positive action in the meantime through the National Planning Policy Framework.”
District and Borough Councils are each responsible for a Local Plan which takes account of the NPPF in delivering new development, including housing and commercial development sites. Each Local Plan contains strategic policies of which the new guidance advises that telecommunications should be one. The policy should require gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure on all new development.
The guidance also lays out strategic considerations in forming telecommunications policy, as well as suggested requirements to consider in relation to development management and design principles. It has been formed in discussion with each Planning Authority’s Planning Policy Officer, who have acted collectively as a group to support its use.