Vision and Key Strategies

This section provides information on the key aims and objectives of what the local planning authorities are trying to achieve across Greater Essex for digital connectivity; the Government’s national vision and digital strategies for the UK and Digital Strategies covering Greater Essex

National UK Digital Strategy

In 2022 the UK Government published its current Digital Strategy, in which key objectives are to ensure the UK will be the best place in the world to start and grow a technology business and to enhance the UK’s place in the world.

The Building Digital UK (BDUK) corporate plan states that ‘Project Gigabit will help to deliver the government’s ambition for gigabit connectivity, providing coverage to at least 5% of UK premises within the National Infrastructure Strategy’s 85% target by the end of 2025, and as close as possible to 100% as soon as possible afterwards’. Following the successful completion of the early ambition to reach 95% of the UK with superfast broadband connectivity, the government has now defined a vision to extend the availability of full-fibre broadband services, capable of gigabit speeds, to reach most of the UK. The Project Gigabit Delivery Plan set out the target of delivering at least 85% gigabit-capable connectivity by 2025 and the Levelling Up White Paper (2022) set a target of achieving nationwide coverage (and 4G coverage) by 2030 (together with 5G coverage for the majority of the population).

This national target builds on the expectation that 80% of the UK premises will be connected to gigabit speeds using commercial investment. Legislation to support these plans is due to follow but is not yet ready. Meanwhile it is therefore vital that Local Authorities use Planning tools and work with developers to ensure that full-fibre connectivity is provided in all new built homes. We welcome the efforts by operators and house builders to extend full fibre, but further action is required as too many homes are still being built without fibre connections.

The Essex Approach

Essex County Council’s (ECC) Digital Connectivity programme, Digital Essex, is expanding its partnership with key telecommunications suppliers to enable digital infrastructure rollout and enhancements across Essex. ECC’s work includes subsidised intervention as well as active market engagement to help remove barriers to a faster or wider commercial deployment of gigabit infrastructure. This approach is defined in ECC’s Digital Strategy for Essex, published June 2022.

Other relevant Essex area Strategies and Initiatives

West Essex / East Hertfordshire Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ)

For West Essex / East Hertfordshire a Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) has been established. This includes a broad range of organisations as part of its partnership. The Zone has been designed around both a functional economic area, and the patient footprint of Princess Alexandra Hospital and covers the five districts of:

  • Broxbourne Borough Council
  • East Herts District Council (EHDC)
  • Epping Forest District Council (EFDC)
  • Harlow Council
  • Uttlesford District Council

The Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) has been created to deliver the following agreed vision:

 “To be the best connected place of its type in the UK. A place of innovation and inclusion. A place where the benefits of digital investment are harnessed, maximised and shared across residents, commuters, businesses and borders.”

 The DIZ partnership has also created its own Digital Innovation Strategy, together with a number of other resources and documents. 

Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (HGGT)

HGGT is located at the centre of the West Essex / East Herts DIZ area. Therefore, the objectives agreed by the DIZ partners will be relevant to development proposals arising and work to improve digital connectivity in HGGT area. 

The HGGT partnership team has also developed its own DRAFT digital strategy / guidance: Digital Infrastructure Standard for New Communities. This has been developed looking solely at the digital infrastructure requirements for new communities, i.e. more major / strategic developments (Gilston, within EHDC area; East of Harlow, spanning Harlow and EFDC districts; Latton Priory, and the Water Lane area, within EFDC district). The DRAFT strategy is yet to be formally adopted by the three District Authorities. The expectation through this DRAFT document is that any large developer will be expected to submit a digital plan for their respective sites at the reserved matters application stage of the planning process, which will be assessed and reviewed independently by the local planning authority (LPA) as planning authority for that geographical area (as set out above) to ensure that digital delivery meets the required standards including futureproofing.

Association of South Essex Local Authorities - ASELA

ASELA covers the following council areas:

  • Thurrock (Borough Council)
  • Basildon (Borough Council)
  • Brentwood Borough Council
  • Castle Point (Borough Council)
  • Rochford (District Council)
  • Southend (City Council)
  • With ECC as a strategic partner

ASELA plans to develop its own digital communications approach. ASELA identifies digital connectivity among its six stated priorities and advises that ASELA is working towards a South Essex with:

  • ‘Excellent and contemporary digital infrastructure including 5G and connectivity that will see businesses want to invest in the area and start successful and productive enterprises.’

The ASELA website also states that:

‘South Essex plans to transform digital connectivity in the region, providing contemporary digital infrastructure that will see the entire region super-connected to attract a new business base.

The Digital Vision for South Essex seeks to:

  • deliver access to a full-fibre gigabit capability to all residents and communities by 2025
  • improve mobile coverage for ALL and enable 5G coverage and innovation
  • deliver connectivity which is accessible and affordable for all which will contribute to addressing digital inclusion
  • enable improvements in digital connectivity through active market engagement (resultant private sector investment), a proactive planning policy and use of council owned assets and infrastructure with the objective of accelerating economic growth and making a positive contribution to levelling up across South Essex.
  • secure public investment to stimulate private sector investment. ASELA already secured already secured £7m Government money to invest in a full-fibre network connecting major public sites and providing connection points for commercial investors. By May 2022 ASELA will have laid over 200km of full fibre across more than 210 public and community sites.
  • develop a Digital Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan which will be focused on working with local communities and businesses
  • reflect this vision through local planning policies and strategies – already been addressed through local guidance to support the drafting of Local Plans and through engagement with Mobile Operators.
  • Contribute to ASELA’s Housing Strategy and the need to ensure that digital infrastructure is at the heart of new developments through a Digital Masterplan

For ASELA, achieving its aims for better digital connectivity (through its Digital Strategy) is seen as key to other objectives including enabling the planned new Technical University and effective connectivity with this. In terms of progress to date, ASELA secured a £4.4 million broadband boost enabling the rollout of Full Fibre broadband infrastructure across south Essex which will enable providers to deliver some of the fastest connections in the country to residents and businesses. ASELA authorities continue to make progress with delivering their digital connectivity ambitions and in line with these Southend City Council has a new superfast fibre network and is currently developing a Connectivity strategy that actively addresses digital inclusion.

Page updated: 19/01/2023

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