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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Jones

A detailed analysis

Hi all, I had recently been contacted by a gentleman who lives in Chester. He has been following the website and our 'progress' for some time now and has provided a very well written email explaining in greater detail than I could the background behind the build's and why we are where we are with the Government.

You will also note what timescales are likely to be expected for those areas who were not covered by the confirmed build i.e Ashton Hayes and Horton-cum-Peel.

Please see below. I have kept the author anonymous for now until I can confirm he is willing to have his name 'out there'

The primary flaw in the regional procurements has undoubtedly been the government wanting to freeze any existing funding streams during a regional procurement. This was mainly so it could be presented to potential bidders as a static entity with a fixed number of properties to bid for.

Voucher funded projects can exist within a procurement area which makes the procurement package a bit of a moving target and so, initially, the government simply froze vouchers, even for existing in-progress voucher projects.

This caused something of an uproar, particularly for rural builders such as B4RN who faced the prospect of their voucher builds (i.e. all of them) within a procurement being stopped until the procurement was complete.

Thankfully, a campaign they mounted in Summer 2021 resulted in the government backing down but only as far as allowing existing voucher projects (or projects in an advanced state of planning) to continue during a procurement.

Once a regional procurement goes into procurement however, only those existing voucher projects can continue and all other voucher eligibility is closed, in the case of LOT17, for the whole of Cheshire.

This is likely what happened to Gigaloch on your patch, at least to some extent.

If Gigaloch had a PRP (pre-registered package) for your patch in place by November last year then vouchers should have remained available to claim.

However, the other thing that can stop vouchers is if a commercial builder (probably Openreach) decides they will build to your community on a full commercial basis. Not necessarily now of course but at some point in the future. Vouchers can stop stone dead (as they did on our project) if this happens.

So, between Openreach and DSIT, those best of intentions can lay in ruins while you wait years for service from an unknown supplier that hasn't even signed a contract yet.

The LOT17 contract isn't due to be signed until early next year assuming there is a successful bidder and that the bidder has included your properties. If so, then there will probably be another 12-18 month wait while surveys are done and who knows when a community will be hooked up to the successful bidder's network after that. Likely a couple of years at least all told.

No other potential network provider will be able to access voucher funding until next year at the earliest and that is only if there is no successful bidder at all (which has happened in other areas) or a successful bidder doesn't include your properties in the build.

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