Aquind who are proposing the new power interconnector from France to Lovedean sub-station are also it appears considering laying a fibre optic cable at the same time. It is understood that this allows the equipment at both ends of the cable to be monitored for balancing power etc but would have spare capacity for wholesale use to telecoms providers.
Ok, makes sense and if they are laying a cable then why not lay two.
I’m a little concerned however as this comes with the opportunity to be granted a licence by Ofcom to install infrastructure without planning permission, streetworks licences and to secure access on private land through the courts. Extract below from the Ofcom notification of consultation.
The electronic communications code is a set of rights that are intended to assist providers of communications networks and/or systems of infrastructure. Operators to whom Ofcom applies the Code may:
• construct and maintain communications networks and infrastructure (such as ducts, cabinets and poles) on public highways without the need to obtain a street works licence to undertake such works;
• construct communications infrastructure which is classified as ‘permitted developments’ under Town and Country Planning legislation (such as certain types of masts, poles and cabinets) without the need to apply for planning permission; and
• in the event that agreement cannot be reached with the owner or occupier of private land, concerning the deployment of communications networks or infrastructure on private land to apply to the Court to impose an agreement which confers the Code right being sought by the operator or provides for the Code right to bind the landowner or occupier.
Ofcom considers applications for the grant of Code powers from providers of electronic communications networks and providers of systems of infrastructure (or both) with reference to the matters set out in section 107(4) of the Communications Act 2003.
This is an area of expertise that few people locally have had to deal with and my question would be the following: If they are granted this power, and the fibre optic cable runs from interconnector to interconnector they would be able to install this cable from Portsmouth to Lovedean without getting planning permission or streetworks licences. What is to stop them from installing their power cables at the same time? After all we often criticise utility companies for digging up the road to put in a gas pipe, then two days later for a water pipe, “why cant they do it at the same time?” we ask…
Click on this link 2020 01 21 Aquind code-powers to download a PDF of the Ofcom consultation and consultation-form (3) to download a word copy of the response form which has the reply email details in it.
For me I will be replying that the licence should only be granted if the scheme as a whole is given planning permission (so as not to be used as any alternative mechanism to lay cabling) and that it is only to allow the installation of telecommunications equipment, all other utility infrastructure, particularly power cable, to be required to go through the normal planning and highways approval processes.
The Ofcom consultation closes on the 21st February 2020