Self-dig case study - Benacre Estate

Background

 

The Benacre Estate is a great example of what can be achieved by a self-dig scheme. Landowner, Edward Vere Nicoll, noticed that more and more people looking to rent the properties were enquiring about the broadband speeds. Edward said,

“We found that we were struggling to rent out some of our properties, because the first question that most people asked was about the broadband speed. At that time, we didn’t have fibre and it was proving to be a major obstacle. I got in touch with Openreach to find out more and we quickly identified three self-dig opportunities at Benacre, around 5km in total, which would make a huge difference.”

 

Beginning the process

 

Working alongside Openreach and the Better Broadband for Suffolk team, several solutions for the self-dig scheme were uncovered. The final project consisted of three different digs, each requiring a slightly different solution. One of the major advantages of the self-dig scheme was not having to dig on the highways, which meant that no road closures were needed for the works to be carried out. An initial idea to implement poles met opposition as it would have meant two sets of poles side-by-side along the highway. Edward liaised with the farmers and it was agreed that armoured cable and ducting could be used on private farmland as an alternative.

 “We worked really closely with local farmers to get the new infrastructure in place, including pulling armoured cable through underground ducting. You do have to be careful on farmland, but with these modern machines capable of creating a trench just a couple of feet wide, we’re able to go down to a sufficient depth around the edge of fields to make sure it’s out of harms way and not accidentally damaged in the future."

 

Challenges and outcomes

 

Some issues did occur during the scheme such as the need to replace ducts that were old and had either collapsed or become blocked. A common issue found with self-dig scheme are wayleaves slowing the work. Fortunately, the benefit of faster and reliable broadband was enough to sway the resident farmers regarding wayleaves, so the work was carried out promptly. There were costs involved with the scheme which include hire costs for equipment, management time dealing with the logistics, and the labour time; however, Edward and everyone at the Benacre estate would agree that it was worth it.

“It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to bring some of the fastest broadband speeds available to this remote part of Suffolk. We used to get low single figure download speeds, but now we’re comfortably over 300 Mbps. Faster broadband is critical to the long-term prosperity of rural communities, with an ever-increasing reliance of broadband for home and work use. Self-dig is a great option for those in a position to do so.”

 

 

More information

 

To find out more information about the Benacre self-dig scheme, please read this press release issued by Openreach: https://news.openreach.co.uk/pressreleases/mp-visits-suffolk-farmers-digging-the-uks-fastest-broadband-speeds-2880193