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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

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 these environmental activities and can be viewed here

Further updates on the work to restore service will follow.

– Ends –


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 15 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.
  • Work began to build a temporary 80m mast at land close to the existing Bilsdale mast on Monday 13 September, which is expected to take around 21 days.
  • 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.