Bilsdale TV mast: Switch-on now only days away as Arqiva sets out Project Restore plan

The chief executive of Arqiva, the company which operates Bilsdale Mast, today met representatives from local authorities, housing associations and charities from across the region to set out proposals to restore TV services and help the most vulnerable groups affected

By Duncan Atkins
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:29 pm

Paul Donovan met representatives of 15 regional organisations from across the region a week before an 80m temporary mast, near the original site at Bilsdale, is expected to restore services to more than 95% of households.

Bilsdale Mast was damaged by fire on August 10; the company has since been working around the clock to restore vital services to those affected, including by putting up more temporary masts at Eston Nab, Sutton Bank and other sites.

As well as updating the group on progress around Project Restore, Mr Donovan set out a campaign to engage local communities to help those people who will still not have a full service once the temporary mast is switched on.

Paul Donovan, Chief Executive of Arqiva, set out the Project Restore plan.

A dedicated call centre will open shortly, and a new online hub will be launched providing updated information and a place where people can register their postcodes and details to get support.

Those attending were shown detailed maps of the region setting out the likely impact of the temporary mast’s switch-on, and the areas which contain so called ‘not-spots’ of coverage which will need further intensive support.

Engineers will be sent out to help households.

At the outset, people aged over 65 and those whom are either clinically vulnerable or vulnerable will be prioritised for support.

Thirsk and Malton MP, Kevin Hollinrake, said the mast situation was an ongoing issue and had caused a great deal of distress to many of his constituents.

"After weeks of meetings with Arqiva I am pleased we are now reaching a point where some form of service will be restored to residents," he said.

"It is right Arqiva prioritises the vulnerable and disabled and I would encourage constituents who are in this category, or who have a friend or family member who is vulnerable, to get in touch with either myself or Arqiva."

Mr Donovan also announced initial support of £150,000 for three regional charities - Two Ridings Community Foundation in North Yorkshire, County Durham Community Foundation and North Yorkshire and Darlington Age UK.

Each organisation will receive £50,000 to help identify those vulnerable people affected by the loss of their TV service, and to support work on digital inclusion and social isolation.

Helicopters are lifting the temporary mast into place and the damaged mast is to be dismantled.

A team of around 100 staff are working on the site at Bilsdale Moor.

The temporary mast is due to be switched on on Tuesday October 5, if the weather permits work to continue at speed.

Checks on the temporary mast will disrupt TV services the day before on October 4.

Mr Donovan said: “It was extremely helpful to have the support and input of our partners and stakeholders across the area as we work to fix this together.

"Arqiva is absolutely committed to restoring services to those who are affected as quickly as possible, and to supporting the most vulnerable people as a priority.”

Jan Garrill, chief executive of Two Ridings Community Foundation in North Yorkshire, said: “Television is so important to people in North Yorkshire, and especially the elderly who rely on it for companionship.

"This donation from Arqiva is very welcome, as is the plan to restore services, and we will work with the company to provide help and advice to those who need it most.”