Maidstone’s CityFibre installation rollout

22 Aug 2023

Following the very considerable traffic disruption in the Allington and London Road areas of west Maidstone during the Summer of 2023, Cllrs Chris Passmore and Ian Chittenden had a meeting on 9 August at the KCC Aylesford offices with KCC Officers, Lanes-i and CityFibre representatives.

This meeting was to:

  1. put over the concerns of residents,
  2. better understand how the programme was being managed,
  3. push for what could be done in the short term to alleviate the frustrations of residents.

 

The outcome of this meeting is summarised in section 2 below.

During this meeting the CityFibre representative started to explain the bigger picture of what is planned for completing the CityFibre installation in west Maidstone through to Easter 2024 as well as the longer-term programme for the whole of Maidstone. Both Councillors expressed their concerns that, unless this strategic programme critical for the future of Maidstone is better managed and communicated, it is likely that other parts of urban Maidstone will in the future experience similar or potentially even greater disruption, leading to further local resident frustration.

Further meeting planned for September.

Cllrs Chris Passmore and Chittenden have now arranged a further meeting in September with Cllr Neil Baker, the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport to better understand the strategic plan for the roll out of the CityFibre System across the rest of west Maidstone and then the rest of Maidstone, so that the lessons learnt in this first phase are not just repeated.

The questions that they are specifically wanting answers to are:

  1. What is the ‘scheme’ under which CityFibre have the licence to dig up parts of west Maidstone?
  2. Who in the KCC authorised this particular programme?
  3. What has so far been specifically authorised in terms of the extent of the highspeed fibre network for Maidstone?
  4. Who is currently overseeing this programme?
  5. Why was Allington and the London Road selected as the first area to have this highspeed fibre network?

Section 2 – Summary of 9 August meeting with KCC Officers, Lanes-i and CityFibre representatives.

 

  1. The entire length of the Queens Road would be open for traffic from 3rd September.
  2. That it is possible that the Queens Road will not be closed again with only traffic control round the working areas – although this cannot be confirmed until later in August.
  3. Lanes-i say that they have met their statutory communication requirements with local residents with regards to leaflet drops to local residents.
  4. That there had been some communication with some Councillors through a short remote presentation about the programme six months ago. (This was subsequently confirmed by MBC Councillor Cynthia Robertson)
  5. That KCC, Lanes-i and CityFibre will now have regular weekly/fortnightly? meetings to review progress and to share information as to the areas being worked.
  6. That residents will tolerate some disruption in anticipation of the longer-term benefit of this high-speed link and the increased value of their property.
  7. That this privately funded highspeed one gigabyte per second fibre network is planned to cover the whole of Maidstone over the next 7 years. The object is to support Maidstone's commercial, academic and residential development for the next 50 years.
  8. The Councillor’s understanding (to be confirmed) is that it is to be built using loops of fibre trunking from strategically placed exchanges serving up to 35k residences with the first fibre exchange located at the Allington Community Association. This explains why they are having to dig up Castle Way “twice” to separate by 8m? the two “arms” of the loop. This structure of loops makes the fibre system less vulnerable, since data can flow in either direction back to the exchange but does make its construction more complex.
  9. The Councillor’s understanding (again to be confirmed) is that the west Maidstone loop will take until Easter 2024 to complete.
  10. CityFibre are keen to have residents contact them directly about their concerns and I was going to be provided with a link to post out, however this has not yet been provided.

Cllrs Chris Passmore and Ian Chittenden also pressed the following two issues:

  1. The very poor communication with Nu-Venture Coaches Ltd who run services on the Queens Road advising of the closures and putting the company in breach of his legal obligations. The first the company knew of the closure was when he received the public notice on 29 June 2023.
  2. They requested again to see the Risk Assessment, Method Statements and associated training records of Lanes-i staff covering the operation the temporary storage site at Adisham Drive where a local resident has witnessed poor Health and Safety procedures. This is to reassure residents that Lanes-i are a competent and safe ‘operator’.