Confrontation over BT broadband boxes in St Albans

A FURIOUS resident on Wednesday refused to allow a new superfast broadband box to be put up outside his St Albans home. He is one of a number of local residents who feel so strongly about the boxes which are being put up all over the district that they are t

A FURIOUS resident on Wednesday refused to allow a new superfast broadband box to be put up outside his St Albans home.

He is one of a number of local residents who feel so strongly about the boxes which are being put up all over the district that they are taking the law into their own hands.

Guiseppe Giubba of The Ridgeway, St Albans, was so incensed when workmen turned up to install one of the six ft by four ft boxes that he refused to allow them to fit it.

Mr Giubba, who is a self-employed ice cream van driver, has extended his house and as a condition has to provide extra off-street parking on his property which he claims the box would block.


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He said: "I told them I'm not having this. They are trying to obstruct me from getting in and out of my drive. And anyway I don't intend to look at that eyesore from my house. They can either move it somewhere else or I will."

Police were called to calm things down and the BT engineers were putting a cover across the hole in the verge at the time the Herts Advertiser was going to press.

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Further along the same road Sandridge parish councillor Chris Hackett also stood his ground earlier in the week and refused to move to allow BT workers to dig foundations for a concrete base for one of the cabinets.

He said: "My neighbour and myself are very unhappy at the prospect of having to look at this massive ugly structure spoiling the view from our front rooms. There are plenty of other sites which would be more suitable."

He maintained workmen took a photo of him blocking their path and went away but police were not called and no further action has been taken so far.

But Mr Giubba and Mr Hackett, who do not live in a conservation area, may find they have unwinnable battles ahead as BT can install their boxes without planning permission outside conservation areas.

BT wants to install the telecommunications boxes in a variety of locations in order to deliver super-fast broadband speeds as part of a �1.5 billion programme being rolled out across the east of England.

Although the firm has to apply for permission to site them in conservation areas, planning officers will have to come up with some sound reasons for refusal because BT is likely to go to appeal if they are refused.

Recently St Albans council's development control manager, Alan Moorhouse, refused permission for around 16 BT cabinets planned for "sensitive" sites in the St Albans conservation area on the grounds that not enough information was supplied.

But St Albans planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said: "This situation has opened a can of worms. The council has no authority to refuse permission for the BT boxes outside the conservation area and it is debatable whether or not the 16 we have refused will be re-sited or it could go to appeal.

"The Government are eager to make the higher broadband speed more freely available and many people in the city centre - especially people working from home - will be anxious to have access to this facility."

District Cllr Jack Pia said the trouble with siting the BT cabinets in the city centre is that so much of it was classed as Conservation area.

He said: "Obviously we don't want unsightly street furniture cluttering up the conservation area but set against this there is a need for people to be able to access high-speed broadband for business use or doctors' surgeries or whatever."

Cllr Pia is now trying to arrange a meeting between BT, concerned ward councillors and other interested parties.

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