We’ve started 2022 with a strong start connecting another 8 properties in the last week since the new year return, and while we are conscious many of you have been waiting patiently for a considerable time, we are continuing to make progress despite the many challenges we continue to face.
As the network grows in multiple directions, the density of properties becomes even more sparse, we currently have a number of properties where the final duct section is 1800m+ and these do present an array of difficulties all round.
We continue to face obstacles to voucher availability for those of you without approved funding, particularly around Waterrow and Raddington, but we have made some progress with the teams at CDS and BDUK and have now successfully challenged voucher eligibility for several remaining properties in Chipstable. These have now had vouchers approved and their connections installed. Hopefully we can use the same principles to progress eligibility in the rest of our project areas, but will email all those currently waiting for a voucher separately later this week.
We have applied for an additional small voucher project area, extending west from Raleigh Cross and expect this to reach approval stage later in January. We can then look to apply for vouchers for those properties interested in being connected. This project area also includes a number of properties further south around parts of Upton who missed out on vouchers last year.
Some of you will have received correspondence from BDUK regarding the pending expiry of your voucher funding. This was initiated when BDUK opted to reinstate the hard 12 month limit on voucher connections having removed this deadline during the pandemic. Fortunately there is a robust extension process which we follow to have extensions granted for clusters of vouchers, providing there is a viable chance to build the connection.
To date only 1 voucher across the entire scheme has been cancelled due to time expiry, only due to the fact we had exhausted all possible build routes & land access to reach that single property, and unfortunately that left no grounds for an extension.
Every other approved voucher has been extended by various timeframes to accommodate difficulties in the build, however this does result in our having to jump around the area to meet deadlines which we understand can be confusing if your near neighbour has been connected yet you have not. There is logic to the approach to both build scheduling and our ability to extend vouchers.
If you receive a warning email from BDUK with a 4 week warning, please be assured we also receive the correspondence and generally already have an extension request lodged.
We currently have no other properties at risk of expiry due to build routes / land access.
Area Specific Updates
Discussions with Wessex Water continue to progress and will reach a conclusion soon. Meanwhile we have completed the connections to the north of Clatworthy around Raleighs Cross and Holcombe Water. This provides an alternative route to reach the main cluster around Clatworthy itself, although there are a number of properties in between who have not joined the scheme and for whom we currently are not able to get voucher funding. Hopefully we will progress this with CDS further and we can then get these properties onboard and gain access to the area south of our current build limits.
Early Voucher approvals have been extended upto end of March 2022 which hopefully will be sufficient to either agree access with Wessex Water or progress from Holcombe Water south.
Upton / Wimbleball Area
Our current build plans include wrapping up a number of individual properties around this area before concentrating on the routes to Holsworthy and we will shortly be in touch with those properties if we have not already done so.
This will leave a couple of properties around Upton, mainly around the B3190 north which we will be looking to start work on once the new project area has gained full approval.
We remain committed to the build in & around Raddington but face several hurdles mainly due to the number of properties which have changed ownership and who are either not signed up or are currently ineligible for voucher funding. While we make progress with CDS on these in general, any approved vouchers have been extended to account for the build delays. Currently we have 2 voucher connections yet to be completed in the eastern side of Raddington and 1 on the skilgate side of Raddington, with no funding in between to complete this route.
If we are ultimately unsuccessful in gaining eligibility for funding in this area, we will have to build 3 unique routes to connect each of these properties in turn. Each are a considerable distance in very complex terrain and will be an uneconomic exercise with the voucher funding available. We will update those properties individually in due course, but in the meantime, if you are in contact with any neighbours who have not registered interest please encourage them to do so.
Within the main area of the village we have 4 remaining voucher connections to complete, all of which are hampered by neighbouring land access, but which we are making progress in addressing. Unfortunately we ran out of time in December to complete a highways crossing from the village hall area towards the River Tone, enabling access to properties on that side of the Chipstable Road, but this is being rescheduled and hopefully this will coincide with voucher eligibility for those properties hoping to join the scheme.
Waterrow – South of B3227
We are currently paused awaiting March 2022 due to Bat hibernation before we can cross to the southern side of the B3227 around Venn Cross and work back east towards Bathealton. Properties affected by this delay have vouchers extended to mid 2022 but again we have a number of intermediate properties who did not join the scheme and are currently ineligible for voucher funding. This can cause issues with land access availability and forces the route planning to be disrupted. An alternative route crossing Road Hill above Hurstone and then working west has been allowed for but this also involves crossing the River Tone, which is a complex permitting operation plus varied land access to be negotiated.
If you have any specific queries please do get in touch via email, in the past responding to these updates can get lost within inboxes, so please start a new email with your query rather than replying to this message. Please accept our apologies if you dont receive a reply immediately, we are often waiting on relevant information or pending updates and prefer to give accurate replies even if this takes some time. The team are also incredibly busy and can’t always get back to you as quickly as we would all like especially if your area is not in active build that week – your patience is appreciated.
Regards & Best Wishes for 2022