Killington broadband trial hailed a success

December 13, 2013 | Armistead News

A trial project which used innovative communications technology linked to a wind farm monitoring test mast to bring high-speed broadband to households in South Lakeland for the first time has been hailed as a success.

Nineteen homes and businesses in the parishes of Killington, New Hutton, Old Hutton, Firbank and Lambrigg were equipped with a new fixed wireless broadband system as part of renewable energy firm Banks Renewables’ investigations into how revenues from the proposed Killington wind farm could facilitate a much faster broadband service for the community living in the surrounding area.

The new system, which was managed by fixed wireless telecommunications specialists Speednet Scotland, involved the installation of transmitters on the permanent 60m wind monitoring mast at the nearby Armistead wind farm, which is primarily being used to gather wind speed data, as well as around 60 relay points which transmitted the broadband signal across the area.

And at the end of the two-month trial period, the system was found to have facilitated an average thirty-fold increase in the broadband speed available in the trial area, which is comparable to the speeds enjoyed in urban areas such as Carlisle and Kendal.

Improving local broadband access was the main priority raised by people living in the area when Banks asked them how they might want to allocate the community benefits fund that would be generated by the wind farm.

The distance from the nearest BT exchange and the existing telecommunications infrastructure in the area means that homes in the area only currently get an average broadband speed of around 500 kilobits per second, which is substantially below the speeds available in other local communities.

Trevor Clarke, who runs Bendrigg Trust, a residential activity centre for disabled children in Old Hutton, and who took part in the trial, says: “We’re very lucky in being one of very few local properties to have a clear line of sight to a radio mast which provides broadband speeds of around 5MB, but we have been able to get more than twice this speed so far during the trial, and even up to 15MB at times.

“It’s great to know that this sort of facility could be available, especially as we’re in a place that’s never going to be able to get broadband delivered by landline.”

The broadband improvement project has been put forward as an example of how the Killington community benefits fund, which could amount to around £1.25 million over the 25-year lifespan of the scheme, might be used to secure a positive, long-term local legacy for the area from the wind farm.

Banks has brought together all the parish broadband champions from the surrounding area to form a local broadband steering group, and their involvement will ensure that the final broadband solution meets the needs of local people to deliver maximum benefit to the local community.

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds:  “Local people told us that improving broadband speeds across the area was a real priority for them, whether for home, schoolwork, leisure or business use, and the work we’ve done shows that the Killington wind farm could make this happen from a logistical and infrastructure investment point of view.

“The data we recorded suggests that everyone will be able to get download speeds of at least 5MBs per second, which is ten times the current local average, with many of the properties getting far higher speeds than that.

“We’re now reviewing the lessons we’ve learnt about the technical and service delivery sides of the process and looking at how we could expand the service to more homes and businesses but this will only happen if we get permission for the Killington wind farm in the New Year.

“Killington would have a purpose built mast to host a number of internet service providers and the wind farm would generate a fund of over £50,000 a year for the local community to expand the network.”

The three-turbine Killington wind farm would be located to the south of the A684 Sedbergh Road, adjacent to Junction 37 of the M6, and would have an installed capacity of around 10.2MW.

Up to 50 people could be working on site through the construction of the wind farm, and local businesses would also be able to tender for contracts worth around £4m relating to different aspects of its development, including construction, security, accommodation and catering.

Part of the proposed wind farm site is owned by Killington Educational Foundation and Killington United Charities, and both organisations would also benefit directly from revenues generated by the new wind farm, if it is approved.

Phil Dyke continues: “Our aim is always to utilise the benefits funds linked to all our schemes in ways which meet the priorities expressed by the local community, so we’re able to make a long-lasting positive difference to the area.

“As well as enabling us to make substantial improvements in line with the priorities of local people, the Killington wind farm would lead to a wide range of other environmental, social and employment benefits for the area, and we strongly believe that we have a very strong case for planning approval to be granted for it.”

Anyone who would like any further information about any aspect of the proposed Killington scheme should either visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/killington or contact the Banks Renewables’ community engagement team on 0191 378 6100 or via killington@banksgroup.co.uk

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