Archive‎ > ‎2016‎ > ‎

Ultra-fast broadband

'We were shocked by the methods used'
Clayhidon Parish counci
and local farmer 

FEBRUARY 2018: There was much concern because of the state of Battle Street after trenching - the first lane to be tackled by the contractors.  Three landowners adjacent to the lane, and two residents were shocked by the methods used.  A Devon Highways Enforcement Officer visited and agreed.  The contractors are now starting some repairs and future repair work is envisaged - but the damage has been done.

To prevent this damage occurring on other lanes, two landowners on the next section of lane (Wiltown to Garlandhayes) were told of the problems and arranged a series of meetings for all.  This was especially important on those lanes with frequently running water around tight bends, or down narrow sloping sections (i.e. Wiltown Lane, Garlandhayes Lane, Callers Lane, Bellets Lane, Applehayes Lane above Hidewood Farm and French Nut Tree).  The Gigaclear Connecting Devon and Somerset Deployment Manager (the most senior member of their team) became involved, stating that the concerns expressed to him by landowners were "fair and reasonable" and that "he agreed with the points made" by them. 

The head of the contracting firm has also been on site stating that it was good to be working in an area where people wanted the work done, and that they wanted to do it to our satisfaction within the contract they had with Gigaclear.   It became apparent that there was no real experience of duct trenching in such tight rural lanes - and that past experience and perceived best practice from working on modern roads in more urban sites or in verges was the only guide. 
The upshot of the week of discussions is that the contractors are no longer  digging into the banks but going vertically  into the lanes,  and in particular laying up to 4 inches of tarmac to cover the stone backfill on the bends.  They are not meant to be  spreading the excavated soil and loose stones over existing tarmac.  It was this largely cosmetic action that caused the mess in the rain on Battle Street, though the protection of the trench excavation remains an issue in Battle Street.

This much more careful excavation will hopefully protect the banks for the future - particularly on the bends and narrow sections with running water.  It will take the contractors longer to do the work, and undoubtedly cost more, but that is an issue between the contractors and Gigaclear.  It is better for Clayhidon's long term care of the lanes and our historic Devon hedgebanks.

It has become apparent that there seemed to be no standards set by Devon Highways for this work, nor any proposed by Gigaclear.  There have been numerous confusing and contradictory answers to our questions on the trenching methods.   Clayhidon has, in effect, been a trial run for this sort of trench work in narrow rural lanes in Devon and Somerset.  As a result of meetings at County Hall between Devon Highways and Connecting Devon and Somerset, written "operating procedures" are likely to be produced for future work.  Parishes in Devon and Somerset will benefit from this.

The latest meetings have been productive and positive with the contractors planning to take up offers of local farm space to store stone and other supplies to save them the current long haul from their base on Smeatharpe.  It is a shame that Gigaclear staff did not engage with those who were to be affected by the work.  A frequent quote in response to questions  is that "the computer worked it out".  They also  wrongly assumed that hedgebanks were part of the highway and that they could encroach on private land (such as car parking areas)  without prior agreement.  The experience has been a learning exercise for Gigaclear, the contractors,  Devon Highways and the Connecting Devon and Somerset team.  The work over the next few weeks will require continual monitoring.

Row over whether Gigaclear is damaging banks

 January 2018: A row has broken out in Clayhidon about the work to install fibre broadband in some areas of the parish.

Concerned residents, including parish councillors and at least three farmers, say the work is undermining banks and hedges.

They argue the cables should be laid under the tarmac, not in the verges and hedges. The contractors strongly disagree and say the way they are doing it in fact strengthens the banks

The work is being done by Gigaclear and its sub contractors MGM Utilities. When completed it will provide the fastest speeds in the country.. 

While some residents seem largely happy with the work, emails have been flying between Devon County Council, its Highways Department, residents and county councillors. Several site meetings have been held. Work was stopped at Wiltown on 30 January, pending an inspection by Highways officials.

One issue centres on ownership of the road banks, with a Devon CC spokesman saying most are private and do not form part of the highway. Parish councillor Graham Langford, of Great Garlandhayes Farm, said: "We do not want to stop anybody getting on with their work - but are worried about damage to our land, for which we will pick up a repair bill or even less usable lanes for years to come."

An ongoing programme of road closures is taking place and the council has promised to closely monitor the work and conduct any investigations it deems necessary.

The contractors are digging into the banks at the sides of lanes, which some residents say is destroying centuries-old stone structures and pushing back mud and loose stones. They say the destabilised banks could collapse in heavy rain, and that drainage capacity is being lost.

Neil Jackson-Parish, Gigaclear's inspector supervisor for  Devon, says this is a misunderstanding. "Laying duct in the verges actually strengthens the verges because we back fill them with type one stone aggregate and ram it in. then we dress it with soil. But if we laid the duct in the middle of the road the weight of tractors and lorries would break the spine of the road. The road would part in the middle and push the hedges out. I would like to reassure people that this is the best way of protecting the lanes and the banks. and that we are in no way undermining the banks."

Farmers are also concerned that some hedges are managed under DEFRA conservation schemes, with financial penalties for landowners is correct management is not followed.

Mr Jackson-Parish can be contacted via email He says he would be happy to take people beyond the road barriers and show them how their subcontractors, MGM Utilities, are carrying out the work.

>Pictures of how they lay duct under verges.

Romanian team bring UK's fastest broadband

January 2018: These Romanian engineers arrived in Clayhidon on 15 January not just to dig up the roads but to give the parish the fastest broadband in Britain.

They are part of a large team laying a network of fibre optic cables and household connection pots for Gigaclear, which will eventually provide broadband speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second,  28 times faster than the national average.
There will be several weeks of traffic disruption, with many roads having to be closed. We understand households could be using the new system by late May or early June 2018.

Road closures  planned for February as Gigaclear starts digging

6 November 2017

Gigaclear is to start digging up Clayhidon’s lanes in February 2018 and laying underground fibre optic cables and connection pots.

Part of the price of having among the fastest broadband speeds in the world will be three weeks of traffic disruption, with many roads having to be closed.

Clayhidon people worried that Gigaclear might be bypassing the parish are taking comfort from publication of a map showing the proposed roadworks. However the Bolham Valley remains outside the network.

If you visit and  type a Clayhidon postcode you should find a map showing much of the parish peppered with roadworks symbols. Click on these to see exactly what is planned for each location.

They will be working in Battle Street between 6 February and 2 March

Other road closures are between 6 February and 20 February, including:

·         Top of Ford Street

·         Rosemary Lane Cross to Bromfield Farm, Grays Lane Cross and Bridgehouse Cross

·         Higher Hill Farm

·         Lanes between Wiltown Cross, Bar Park, Forches and Garlandhayes

·         Clayhidon Crossway to Bar Park Corner

·         Garlandhayes Lane to Red Lane

·         Lane to Cordwents

·         Garlandhayes to Hidewood

·         Lillycombe Cross to Stapley Road

·         Bridgehouse Cross to Lillycombe Farm and Shackles Cross

·         Footpaths 4, 8, 9, 20

And there be a road closure as early as 20 – 25 November from Brimley Farm up Brimley Road.

When will this translate into actual connections to local homes and a taste of broadband at the speed of light? There has been nothing official about this, but someone on the Gigaclear sales team told Susan Annett of Carlingwark: “Late summer 2018”.



Update on fast broadband in the Blackdown Hills
By Graham Long, broadband campaigner and Upottery parish councillor

1 March 2017
Many people in Clayhidon and the Blackdown Hills placed orders with Gigaclear for pure fibre ultrafast broadband when Gigaclear announced, last year, their plan to provide a commercial fibre network offering up to 1,000Mbps.
This fibre network is being funded commercially, by £2.4M from Neil Woodford Investments and the Prudential and will connect approx, 2,000 properties. Whilst Gigaclear told people last year that much of this network would be built in the first half of 2017, it has been necessary to delay the programme for a few months but there are good reasons for this delay.
Throughout 2016, whilst planning their commercial network in the Blackdown Hills, Gigaclear were also bidding for the Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) Phase 2 programme designed to get fast broadband coverage in Devon & Somerset up to 95% and funded by government subsidy. On December 20th, Gigaclear won 4 of the six Phase 2 contracts from CDS and this will connect the same pure fibre broadband to another 35,225 properties in Devon & Somerset by the end of 2019. Whilst the delay in Gigaclear’s commercial programme is frustrating for those who placed orders last
Gigaclear sub-contractors at work in Churchinford on 1 March 2017.
year, it is important to appreciate that the delay will produce a more robust broadband network for many thousands of people in the two counties.
Rather than operating independent Commercial and Subsidised networks, it makes sense for Gigaclear to integrate the two networks into one and that is the primary cause of the delay. It also means that the whole integrated network will be more robust, have multiple backhaul connections. It will become the UK’s largest pure fibre network offering all customers 1,000Mbps symmetric broadband. 
To ensure the whole project is a success, Gigaclear have appointed WS Atkins (one the world’s most respected civil engineering contractors) as their procurement partner for Devon & Somerset. Bearing in mind that close to 6,000 kilometres of fibre cable will be laid in the ground for this project, this means that the subcontractors who dig the trenches and lay the fibre cables in our roads and verges will be overseen by the most professional engineering contractor available. 
Gigaclear’s commitment to their Devon and Somerset network is demonstrated by the fact they will be investing £43.75M in the Phase 2 network, more than twice the amount of public subsidy being provided to the project. Gigaclear have also announced that they will connect another 3,000 properties as part of their commercial programme. 
Road works are already scheduled  to allow fibre cable to be laid to  the first properties due to be connected in Rawridge, Upottery, Smeatharpe, Churchinford and Churchstanton between May and July and these can be viewed at . Clayhidon connections can be expected to follow shortly afterwards. You can find out if you will benefit from Gigaclear's commercial or CDS programmes at .
Despite all this, there will still be properties that are too far from Gigaclear’s backbone fibre cables to benefit from either of Gigaclear’s commercial or CDS projects at present and who are not served by fast broadband from one of BT’s “fibre enabled” green cabinets.
Last week CDS were awarded another £10M of LEP funding by the government and their objective is to ensure that every property in Devon and Somerset has access to 30Mbps by 2020, so there is more to come, but in the meantime a company called Voneus are supplying 30Mbps fixed wireless broadband in this area. See .

Text of letter from Gigaclear to Clayhidon area customers
23 December 2016
Dear Resident,
In June 2016, Gigaclear announced commercial plans to install its pure fibre network to the Blackdown Hills area of Devon and Somerset. Since then, we have been progressing with our plan to deliver ultrafast broadband to up to 2,000 of the hardest to reach homes and businesses in the region.
This week, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) announced that Gigaclear has been awarded a number of contracts within its Phase 2 superfast broadband project. This award means the Gigaclear network will now be rolled out to a far wider area than just Blackdown Hills. As a result, we now plan to reach an additional 3,000 properties, more than double the number included within our initial plans for Blackdown Hills. This is a positive step towards delivering a pure fibre to the premises (FTTP) network to as many homes and business in the area as possible.
While this will give thousands more people in Devon and Somerset access to ultrafast Internet, it does also mean that we need to review our delivery schedule for the whole region. Unfortunately, as a result, we will not be starting the construction of our pure fibre network in the Blackdown Hills area until the wider delivery schedule for this CDS region has been agreed.
Reaching as many properties as possible, as quickly as possible remains our goal, and residents and businesses can be assured that we will continue with our plans to provide them with the UK’s fastest* broadband. We will continue to keep you up to date with the latest developments and we will be sharing a revised rollout schedule for your area in early 2017.

Thank you for your patience.


For updates, follow us on:
Twitter: @Gigaclear

Council leaders hail £62m broadband deal

DECEMBER 2016: A £62m deal announced on 21 December will bring  superfast broadband to 35,225 of the hardest to reach homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset by 2019.
Connecting Devon & Somerset, the largest Government funded superfast broadband programme in the UK, has signed new contracts with Gigaclear.
These mean that homes and businesses will be able to access speeds of up to 1Gbps, 33 times faster than the national average.
Council leaders are hailing the contract terms as ‘unparalleled’ and a ‘great deal’ for local communities.
>Read more.

Parish is well on the way to ultrafast broadband target
OCTOBER 2016: Clayhidon is well on the way to having ultra fast broadband.  Gigaclear says it has reached 68 per cent of the orders it needs before it will commit to laying an underground network of fibre optic cable.
The parish is part of a wider area which the Oxfordshire based company has called Ford Street, and it includes Sampford Arundel, Sampford Moor, Wrangway and part of Wellington. 
It has signed up 110 households and businesses but needs 160, which it is apparently now confident of reaching. If and when it reaches 100 per cent, work on building the network is due to start in April. 
Meanwhile Gigaclear's website has announced that the villages of Upottery, Rawridge and Yarcombe have placed sufficient orders and the area has now moved into the Network Build stage, with the first properties expected to be connected to the all fibre network in January. 
 "This will make Upottery, Rawridge and Yarcombe, Devon's first Gigabit Villages," said broadband campaigner Graham Long, meaning that the company's top of the range service will operate at speeds of up to a billion bits per second.
You can check on progress in this area by clicking on this link and typing in your postcode.

Gigaclear rumour quashed

NOVEMBER 2016: A rumour that Gigaclear had run out of funding for its project to bring ultra-fast broadband cable to Clayhidon and neighbouring parishes has been flatly denied by a director.
The rumour was mentioned at the Parish Council’s planning meeting on 14 November, but afterwards council member Sue Hay called Joe Frost, Gigaclear’s business development director.

Her assured her that there is no issue with funding the current project, which is starting with Upottery, Rawridge and Yarcombe , and notices are in for work to begin in January.

Gigaclear says it has reached 73 per cent of the orders it needs before it will commit to laying an underground network of fibre optic cable. in the Clayhidon and Ford Street area.
It has signed up 116 households and businesses but needs 160, which it is apparently now confident of reaching.
Upottery, Rawridge and Yarcombe have already placed sufficient orders and the first properties are expected to be connected to the all fibre network in January, making them Devon's first Gigabit Villages. >Read more.

Broadband campaigner says Gigaclear service will be world class
SEPTEMBER 2016: "For the past three or four months I 
have had to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming," broadband campaigner
 Graham Long told a public meeting in Clayhidon Parish Hall on 20 September.
"Gigaclear is going to bring into our area the fastest broadband anywhere in the world, and I am not joking. It will be better than anything in Exeter or Plymouth.
"It will be the best the world can offer," he added, comparing the importance of its arrival to the coming of the railway to the west country in the 19th century.
Graham, an Upottery Parish Councillor, who has been in the national media with  his campaign for faster broadband for the Blackdowns,  was speaking at a meeting called by Gigaclear, who specialise in laying ultra fast broadband networks in rural areas. 
So far 57 people in the Ford Street and Clayhidon area have pledged to pay for the service if and when it goes ahead, but unless another 103 sign up it's not going to happen.
Darren Thompson, regional sales manager, told a highly interested audience of 50 this would be a £500,000 investment. The scattered nature of development here meant this was a particularly expensive project, costing the firm £1,600 per household, more than three times the cost in Upottery and Churchinford, and it would not go ahead unless it hit the 160 target.
People here would not pay any more than other areas, but a higher percentage of households, 45%,  was required before Gigaclear would start work on laying its fibre optic cable network, and that would probably be next April,
Darren and his sales team were encouraged by the size of the turnout and by the enthusiasm of the audience. He answered numerous questions, and urged people living in areas outside the original network to convince their neighbours to sign up. If enough did so the project designers would alter their plans to include them.
Gigaclear's Darren Thompson answers questions from the floor. 

Broadband Community Event - Gigaclear invitation to Clayhidon residents

Dear Resident,
Gigaclear delivers ultrafast, fibre broadband to rural communities. Our fibre technology could transform your online experience by bringing fibre directly into your home with speeds of up to 1Gbps. We are now measuring the demand for faster broadband in your community for our service. 
We are inviting you to come and ask us any questions you may have about Gigaclearultrafast fibre broadband and find out what we can do for you.
You might want to know: 
  • The difference ultrafast fibre broadband can really make to you
  • What fibre to the premises actually means
  • What our packages comprise
  • What 1000Mbps really means to your internet browsing
  • How easy it is to switch from your current provider
  • How broadband telephony can save on line rental
Join us at our Q&A event to find out more:

When: Tuesday, 20th September 2016, 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Where: Clayhidon Village Hall, Clayhidon, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 3PL.
Don't forget to register your attendance Why wait? If you would like to secure the UK's fastest* broadband in your community, place your order today:
For updates, follow us on:Twitter: @Gigaclear  Facebook: 
45% sign up needed to guarantee UK's fastest broadband
Don't know what to believe about broadband plans for the Blackdowns?
>Click here to read  Graham Long's independent assessment

5 September 2016

Staff from broadband company Gigaclear start work in Clayhidon this week.
They are hoping to sign up 160 homes in an area which includes parts of Clayhidon, Rosemary Lane, Battle Street, Vox Moor, the Wrangway and Ford Street plus some areas north of the M5.
This would represent 45 per cent of the 360 possible homes currently included in their catchment area.
Gigaclear is a commercial company targeting areas which BT and Government schemes are not including in any upgrading schemes for broadband and say they provide the UK's fastest broadband.
Staff at the company are saying that they would have to bypass the Clayhidon area if not enough people sign up for the scheme. Customers pay nothing up front, unlike BT upgrades, and the company says it is governed by Ofcom and will recoup its outlay after about eight years.
People not yet in their scheme can push their case to be included especially if several houses sign up. So the two staff working in Clayhidon from Thursday say it is important to register your interest on the Gigaclear website even if it says your postcode is not currently included.
People will be getting leaflets through the post very soon.
Erica Stanford and Chris Casey (pictured)
are available to answer questions, or visit your home, and plan to hold a public meeting in the village hall either next week or the week after, plus some drop in Q and A sessions.
This website will let you know as soon as we have a date for that meeting.
Erica told on Monday that Gigaclear plans a meeting in Clayhidon very soon, as sign ups in the Churchinford area have gone so well.
She said: "We want to meet people, go to their homes, answer questions and explain how our ultrafast broadband compares with other providers. It is not about hard selling."
Gigaclear specialises in rural areas and its current plan is on a line straight across the Blackdown Hills from Upottery to near Wiveliscombe.
Erica says Upottery should be finished in January and at that point the company can give a demonstration of  what 1Gb per second means, apparently 33 times faster that the UK average.
It does not connect to BT's infrastructure and the packages from Gigaclear do not need a phone line as the fibre comes right to the house. But you can keep your own number if you want a landline and get unlimited anytime calls for £8 a month with Vonage.
To contact Erica from Monday phone 07817 834333 or email, or Chris Casey from Thursday on 07817 834434 or email
Find out more about Gigaclear’s service at