An update on our efforts to restore services following the incident at the Bilsdale mast
Protecting the environment – How Arqiva is building an 80m mast on a Site of Special Scientific Interest
- Second site update film highlights environmental considerations to be followed on Bilsdale site
- Arqiva working with on-site ecologist to minimise impact on flora and fauna in the Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Park
North Yorkshire, UK, 17 September 2021: Arqiva, the leading UK communications infrastructure and media services provider, is working with environmental experts to protect a moorland Site of Special Scientific Interest to ensure that we act quickly to build a temporary mast and comply with our obligations to the unique and beautiful environment of the North York Moors.
Alongside construction work, which began on Monday 13 September, Arqiva is consulting with ecologists at the site itself in order to protect the moorland environment.
Our ecologists have attended site to complete surveys and carry out sensitive habitat clearance in small, discrete sections of the Bilsdale moor. This work has been completed to ensure the works to construct the temporary mast avoid impacts to the heathland habitats and wildlife (birds, reptiles and amphibians) which make the area so important and sensitive.
Our work in this area extends to a detailed heathland recovery strategy which will be implemented as the temporary mast is removed to ensure that there is no long-term harm to the moorland. We are also working hard to ensure that the project leaves a lasting legacy benefit for the moors its wildlife.
The recovery strategy includes re-seeding the heather which is being cleared to make way for the mast base and anchors for the stays (the steel ‘guy ropes’ which will keep the mast upright) and sourcing the correct type of stone to interact with the surroundings.
Floodlights which will allow overnight working in the remote site are solar powered, removing the need for diesel burning generators.
Arqiva has released more video of work on the site, and the environmental efforts involved.
Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva, said:
“The site at Bilsdale is unique and complex, and we have worked closely with the landowner, Natural England and others to ensure that while we act as fast as we possibly can to build this mast, we do not ignore our clear obligations to the natural environment.”
“Our team is working tirelessly to deliver our recovery plan at Bilsdale, and to date we have been able to return a signal to upwards of 500,000 households using existing and temporary infrastructure around the area usually served by the Bilsdale mast.”
Once operational, the 80m-high temporary mast is expected to provide Freeview TV signals to an area covering over 90% of households which were served by the existing Bilsdale mast, which was damaged by fire on August 10. Due to the nature of the site, the build is heavily reliant on helicopter operations and working at height, which makes it weather dependent, but is expected to take 21 days to complete.
A video is available highlighting some of this environmental activities and can be viewed here. Further updates on the work to restore service will follow.
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Arqiva begins work on temporary mast at Bilsdale site
– Work under way to build a temporary mast which is expected to restore signals to over 90% of affected households
– Video update posted from site
North Yorkshire, UK, 14 September 2021: Arqiva, the leading UK communications infrastructure and media services provider, can confirm that work has commenced on the temporary mast at its Bilsdale site.
A team of around 100 people began construction work at Bilsdale yesterday (Monday 13 September) with materials being transported into place and ground preparation began for the mast’s installation. The team are working at pace to clear the site and put foundations in place for the ground-based transmission equipment.
Once operational, the 80m-high temporary mast is expected to provide Freeview TV signals to an area covering over 90% of households which were served by the existing Bilsdale mast, which was damaged by fire on August 10.
The clearance includes excavating heather after which the area will be re-seeded. Stone used on site has also had to be specially selected to ensure the right levels of acidity for the surrounding environment.
Arqiva’s priority is now on working with organisations across the affected area including local councils, housing associations and charities to reach and support those who may remain without signal following the mast build, and to prioritise the most vulnerable people affected.
Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva, said: “We are working 24/7 to restore services to as many people as possible across the North-East and North Yorkshire. This is complex work, involving multiple agencies and highly skilled teams. We are fully committed to the task at hand.”
A video is available of initial construction activity on site and can be viewed here. Further updates on the work to restore service will follow.
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Arqiva’s Bilsdale Service Restoration Update
– Arqiva Chief Executive to meet local leaders and community groups as latest new transmitter comes online at Sutton Bank
– Around 500,000 households now returned to a Freeview coverage area
– Arqiva will be meeting local organisations to discuss support for the most vulnerable affected
North Yorkshire, UK, 08 September 2021: Arqiva, the leading UK communications infrastructure and media services provider, today provided an update on Bilsdale Mast following the recent fire that affected services across the region.
Chief Executive Officer, Paul Donovan, will be meeting council and community leaders across the area to discuss the restoration of services and how to prioritise the most vulnerable people affected, and he returned to the site to view progress. A new, temporary mast has today restored some TV services to over 100,000 more people in North Yorkshire.
While investigation into the cause of the fire continues, the implementation of the company’s recovery plans has now resulted in around 500,000 households being returned to a Freeview coverage area.
Arqiva’s view is that the damage caused by the fire means it is probable that the existing mast will have to be dismantled.
The company has used a combination of its existing sites and new, temporary structures to restore services and was today able to announce that an additional new transmitter site at Sutton Bank was now providing Freeview TV signals to over 100,000 households in areas including Harrogate, Knaresborough, Pickering, Ripon, Masham, Leyburn and northern parts of York.
The next stage of the plan is to build an 80 metre-high temporary mast on land near the existing mast at Bilsdale.
A team of around 100 people are in place to undertake the site preparation, helicopter lift for the mast structure and transmission set up. Working with local authorities, planning bodies, central Government, broadcast customers and regulators, the national park and others, good progress has been made in recent days. It is expected that this temporary mast will restore Freeview TV services to over 90% of affected households in the coming weeks.
Speaking close to the damaged mast, and after meeting council leaders, Chief Executive Paul Donovan said:
“First and foremost, I want to apologise again to those who people who have had their services disrupted by the fire at Bilsdale Mast; and especially to those who rely on television for companionship.
“Our absolute priority is to restore services as quickly as we can. We have a detailed recovery plan which continues to progress as quickly as possible. This morning Freeview television services were restored for over 100,000 more homes in the region.
“However, this is a complex task and there is clearly a lot more to do, so we are working with our partners as quickly and safely as possible. I would like to extend a special thank you to all those people who have been supporting friends and neighbours who may not have access to the internet or other sources of information and entertainment. We will prioritise the most vulnerable people affected.
“Our teams are doing everything in their power to restore services for as many people as possible as quickly as we can and we will provide further updates on progress.”
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Comment from Freeview
As a result of Arqiva’s continued engineering work, thousands more households across the North East will have their Freeview signal restored. The new Sutton Bank transmitter serves households across North York, Harrogate, Pickering, Ripon, Masham, and Leyburn.
If you are in one of these areas please try retuning your TV to make sure your channel list is up to date. For advice on how to retune, as well as a more detailed updates for each area, please head to our website – www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale
If you know anyone that might be affected but doesn’t have internet, we also have an automated freephone number, on 0800 121 4828, which will take callers through all the latest news and the viewing options available to them.
With frequent engineering updates taking place throughout the day the freephone number is one way we can keep all our viewers as up to date as possible. We also have a staffed adviceline for more detailed help, available during office hours on weekdays.
We want to thank all viewers for their continued patience at this time, and we will be continuing to keep all viewers up to date with the latest developments as soon as we can.
Notes to Editors:
• The Bilsdale mast is the tenth tallest structure in the UK at 314m (1030ft) tall. (Arqiva operates nine out of the top ten).
• At a total of 685m (2260ft) above sea level, it is one of the highest in the UK.
• The tubular structure weighs approximately 500tonnes.
• The Bilsdale transmitter provides Digital Terrestrial TV along with digital and FM radio signals to the area, including:
- PSB1, 2, 3, COM4, 5, 6, 7 & LTV – Television multiplexes
- BBC Radios 1-4, Radio Tees & BBC DAB
- SDL, MuxCO North Yorkshire DAB, BAUER Teeside, Digital 1
- TFM, Capital, Heart & Classic FM
• It also provides mobile phone and other ancillary services that require a broad reach.
• According to Freeview, more than 500,000 households are served by the mast
• Not all of these households are solely reliant on Freeview for TV services (being able to access online services/players, the Freeview app, Freesat or subscription satellite or cable services).
• Within nine days of the fire Arqiva had returned some Freeview television services to around 250,000 households, and the following day that was extended to around 400,000.
• There are 16 relays which receive a signal from Bilsdale and pass it on to smaller areas, they have all now been restored.
• Radio services have also been largely restored.
• Having provided a technical solution for the vast majority, Arqiva is now meeting with local organisations such as Age UK, local authorities and housing associations to discuss the best way to serve these people.
• While engineering work continues to improve the coverage options, Freeview has also set up a devoted freephone number 0800 121 4828, which will take callers through the latest news and viewing options available to them. The freephone is a recorded update aimed at making sure that viewers who do not have access to the internet can easily check if there are any updates for their area, whenever they need to. Alongside this, Freeview’s adviceline is still available on weekdays for anyone who cannot get online or for those who need more detailed help. For more information as well as advice on how to retune, head to www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale.
• Questions on the license fee should be directed to the Television Licensing Unit at https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/ or on 0300 790 6076
Updated 02/09/2021 – additional relay transmitters back on air, and new freephone number for Freeview now available
This week has seen the successful restoration of more Freeview television services for those who receive signals from Arncliffe Wood, which mostly serves the Darlington area. Additionally, we have also restored services from a number of relay sites. These are:
Working with our partners we are continuing our efforts to enable access to the Bilsdale site in order to build a temporary mast as quickly as possible.
We remain absolutely committed to restoring services to our customers as soon as we can, and to working with our partners across the region in order to do so. We apologise for the fact that services have not been restored as quickly as we had hoped, and we will provide a further update in due course.
If you are served by the Rookhope, Castleton or Bainbridge relay transmitters, you should now see your signal restored following engineering work today.
If you’re in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar, Stockton, Darlington, Barnard Castle, Richmond, Leyburn, Catterick, Masham or Ripon, you may be able to receive more channels following engineering work at the temporary transmitters serving your areas.
You may need to retune your TV set to ensure your channel list is up to date. For more information as well as advice on how to retune, head to www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale
While engineering work continues to improve the coverage options, we have also set up a devoted freephone number 0800 121 4828, which will take callers through the latest news and viewing options available to them.
The freephone is a recorded update aimed at making sure that viewers who don’t have access to the internet can easily check if there are any updates for their area, whenever they need to. Alongside this, our adviceline is still available on weekdays for anyone who can’t get online and who needs more detailed help.
With some homes still without service, we want to thank viewers who live in the local area for looking out for those who may still be isolated from their usual source of information and companionship, and for continuing to help us to keep these viewers informed.
Updated 27/08/2021 - More relay transmitters back on air
We continue to work through the process to enable access to the Bilsdale site to build the temporary mast. There is no specific new detail to share at this point but we are continuing to work round the clock to find a way forward.
Meanwhile, this week has seen the successful restoration of some Freeview television services for those who receive signals from the smaller relay sites in the following areas:
These relays normally receive a signal from the main Bilsdale mast (Aislaby actually takes its signal from Ravenscar) and ‘pass it on’ to the communities in the area that cannot see the main mast.
We once again apologise that services have not been restored as quickly as we’d hoped and will provide a further update as soon as possible.
Updated 24/08/2021 - Delay to proposed temporary mast at Bilsdale
Arqiva continues to do everything in its power to restore broadcast services as quickly and safely as possible following the fire which damaged the Bilsdale Mast earlier this month.
The majority of homes affected, more than 400,000, have now had their TV services restored, and FM radio and Digital Radio have also returned to most households.
Our teams are working round the clock, alongside our partners, to return services to normal for people across the area as quickly as possible. We fully recognise that, for those who remain affected, this is a frustrating time as services have not been restored as quickly as we had hoped. We apologise for that.
The remaining stages of our plan require access to the original mast site to deliver materials, build and commission the temporary 80-metre mast which would expand TV services to the vast majority of households. The legal process to secure appropriate access to the site to build the temporary mast is taking longer than we initially anticipated and as a result it will not be operational by this weekend as we’d hoped.
We are making representations to the court as to the severity and the urgency of the situation but we are in the hands of the judicial system currently. We continue to speak to the landowner to see if we can reach an access agreement whilst the application is being processed. We are doing everything we can to move this forward as quickly as possible and are seeking the assistance of everybody involved to accelerate the process.
Comment from Freeview
‘We share in our viewers disappointment that the new temporary mast at Bilsdale has been delayed, particularly at such short notice. However, we have faith that Arqiva is doing everything in its power to reach a new access agreement with the landowner.
We will continue to keep viewers up to date with the latest information and guidance via our website and social channels.’
Following the coverage improvement at Eston Nab yesterday, today we have completed the installation of the additional 15m mast at Arncliffe Wood, providing approximately 200,000 households with coverage for TV (PSB1, 2 and 3 multiplexes featuring the main BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel5 services)
The television relay at Skinningrove was also restored yesterday, providing channels from the PSB2 multiplex (the main commercial TV channels). Further work we expect to be complete early next week will provide these same households with the BBC channels and HD variants.
We will provide further updates as soon as possible.
For further help and advice please contact Freeview at https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter
We are pleased to report that the planned power increase at Eston Nab has been completed this morning (19/08), which has increased coverage for TV (PSB1, 2 and 3 multiplexes featuring the main BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel5 services) to more than 250,000 households in total.
SDL and D1 Digital commercial radio multiplexes - including stations such as Absolute Radio, Classic, Planet Rock, Times Radio, Scala Radio, Boom Radio, Kiss, Magic and Talksport - are now also broadcasting from Eston Nab to much of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and the coast to Hartlepool.
We can also confirm that in the last 48 hours the Digital TV relay at Peterlee has returned to service, as it is now taking its feed from our Pontop Pike site.
Work to install additional equipment at Arncliffe Wood to further extend coverage is also in progress and is still expected to be complete by this weekend.
If you live around Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Thornaby-on-Tees, Darlington, Barnard Castle, Richmond or Billingham, you may now see some channels on your TV as a result of the continued engineering work. If your TV is still struggling to pick up any signal, an automatic retune could help. For information on how to retune, alongside detailed advice for each area, please visit our website at https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter
If your TV still can’t pick up a signal, we understand how frustrating this must be, and engineers are working round the clock to further improve the coverage as soon as possible. If you have an online connection, you can watch Freeview content via a connected Freeview Play TV, the Freeview website, or the Freeview mobile app.
Later today (17/08), we expect to return digital radio services from SDL and D1 from Eston Nab, providing digital radio on those multiplexes for much of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and the coast to Hartlepool.
We continue to be in constant dialogue with all our broadcaster customers, Freeview and our regulator Ofcom regarding our plans, and updating MPs to keep them informed.
As per our previous update, we now expect to have completed the improvement of TV coverage from Eston Nab, and also the installation of a further 15m mast at a site in Arncliffe Wood by the weekend.
These two developments should deliver a significant improvement in TV coverage for viewers in the areas including Darlington, Stockton, Catterick, Leyburn, Masham and Ripon. We will update viewers on any action they need to take with further updates later this week.
Work on phase 2 of the recovery plan continues. We still anticipate the temporary mast to be effective by 28 August.
For further help and advice please contact Freeview at https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter
Over the weekend work has continued at both our Eston Nab site and Bilsdale itself in efforts to recover services for more people. The Fire Service were able to access the base of the mast for the first time since the fire broke out and we are now able to begin the process of assessing the condition of the mast itself. There are no findings to report at this stage and we will update as soon as we are able.
As reported last week, some television multiplexes (a multiplex is a bundle of digital channels) are now broadcasting from Eston Nab.
We are currently undertaking additional works at the Eston Nab site to allow us to extend the coverage area of the signal to cover parts of Darlington, Richmond and Barnard Castle among others which we expect to be complete this week.
We are grateful to our landowners who continue to provide access to their lands to allow this critical work to take place.
We will update further tomorrow (17/08/21)
To date, the following services are on air:
BBC Radio Tees, TFM, Capital, Heart, Classic - Broadcasting from Eston Nab
BBC Radio Tees – Also broadcasting from the Whitby relay
BBC National DAB, Bauer Teesside DAB – Broadcasting from Eston Nab
Digital Terrestrial Television
PSB1 (incl. BBC1, BBC2 CBeebies and CBBC), PSB2 (incl. ITV, ITV2, Channel4 and Channel 5), PSB3 (incl. BBC 1 & 2 HD, ITV1, Channel4 and Channel5 HD), COM4, COM5 and COM6 multiplexes – broadcasting from Eston Nab to a limited area
PSB1, PSB2 and PSB3 – Also broadcasting from the Guisborough and Whitby relays to c.35,000 homes
PSB1 and PSB3 – Broadcasting from the Limber Hill relay to c18,000 homes
For further help and advice please contact Freeview at https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter
We have had some success during phase 1 of our recovery plan using the Eston Nab site to restore services for some areas. Eston Nab is unfortunately unable to reach all the areas served by the larger Bilsdale mast, as broadcast signals rely on line-of-sight between transmitter and receiver (your rooftop aerial). This is the reason why masts such as the one at Bilsdale need to be so tall, and why they are located where they are – to reach as many homes as possible.
The job of locating transmission equipment involves complex work to assess coverage areas, ensuring line of sight while avoiding interfering with other equipment and also the environment in which they are required. The only way to truly replicate the service from Bilsdale is to erect something on the same site, which has been difficult given the nature of the incident. To date we have been unable to even access the existing mast to assess its condition.
Phase 2 of our plan involves the erection of an 80m temporary mast at Bilsdale and we have been surveying the site to identify the best alternative locations within the restrictions we have. Included in this is the fact that Bilsdale is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, meaning we have to seek agreement to place any additional equipment.
There are many activities to this phase 2; preparation of ground, access, erection of an 80m temporary mast which involves raising the mast itself, running power, bringing in high powered transmitters and feeders to the antenna and configuration and test. This part of our plan should reinstate TV coverage for the vast majority of viewers who receive signals directly from Bilsdale. Due to the work required to deliver this solution we expect that work to be complete within 14 days from now.
We are sorry for the ongoing disruption but are committed to delivering a solution for our broadcast customers and you, their viewers and listeners, as fast as we can. We understand the frustrations of some of you that this process is not quicker, and we expect to be able to provide details next week of which areas should benefit from phase 2. But following this update we hope you can understand that broadcasting to the nation is complex and while these incidents are thankfully rare, 99.99% of the time when you turn on your TV the picture will be there.
For further help and advice please visit Freeview https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter.
Our engineers continue to work tirelessly on our three-stage recovery plan to reinstate all services that were present on the Bilsdale mast. Phase 1 involved establishing a service for some people as soon as possible, phase two involves improving that coverage either by increasing power or using temporary sites, and phase three is the restoration of an equivalent service.
Some viewers who received their TV signals directly from the Bilsdale had their TV services restored using our site at Eston Nab last night (11/08). As of this evening (12/08), we have also been able to add channels on another multiplex meaning more channels are now available in those areas. To enable this, we have built a temporary tower at Eston Nab, added antenna and feeders, wired electrics and configured the antenna.
We have also been able to restore services from the two largest relays of Bilsdale, at Whitby and Guisborough – which each serve tens of thousands of households and we have also restored radio services in some areas.
While we understand the frustration of those in areas that are not yet restored, we would like to assure you that we are doing all we can to restore services as fast as we can. Bilsdale is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and to replicate what is there is not a simple task. Phase 2 will see the vast majority of TV coverage restored from temporary masts at Bilsdale and we expect to be able to give a firm timeline on that phase tomorrow (Friday 13/08)
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