How to get a telegraph pole removed (for free)

BT Telegraph Pole Thumb

Removing the telegraph pole in our front garden has always been on our list of things to do with this house. It’s already not the prettiest little house you’ve ever laid eyes on, and having a whacking great big ugly telegraph pole right in front of it didn’t help matters.

It’s been 10 months since we first put in motion the removal of the pole, and I’m happy to report that it’s just been removed!  If you’ve got a pole (or other “apparatus”) that you would like to have moved or removed, this post will tell you what we did.

How I got this telegraph pole removed

If you want a quick outline, there are basically just 2 or 3 steps:

Step 1

Email archive.ripple@openreach.co.uk to find out if there is a wayleave (permission) for the apparatus to be on your property.

Step 2

If there’s no wayleave, send notice requiring Openreach to remove/relocate the apparatus, to this address:

Openreach ENR Team
3rd Floor Lancaster House
Old Hall Street
Liverpool
Merseyside
L3 9PY

They’ll email you a letter template if you ring 0800 023 2023 Option 3.

Step 3

If they reply saying they aren’t going to remove/relocate the pole, write back reminding them there is no wayleave. First read section 21 of the legislation here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/12/schedule/2 Be prepared to keep writing letters back and forth. You may find this forum post helpful.

Things to bear in mind:

  • This is not going to be quick. It will probably take 6 months to a year.
  • All letters must be sent via recorded delivery. Keep the receipts.
  • If there is a wayleave on the apparatus/equipment, you are most likely stuck with it unless you don’t mind paying a lot to have it moved.
  • I believe that if you want the apparatus to be moved so that you can “improve” or develop the land eg: build on it, this is a different kettle of fish and you’ll need to pay. I’m not 100% clear on that point as I wanted our pole moved for aesthetic reasons, but I believe it gets more complicated if your reason is the improvement or development of the land.

Openreach Van

If you want to know the full version of how we got our telegraph pole was removed, read on:

First, I should mention that this house uses Virgin, so we don’t need BT for our phone, internet or anything else.

STEP 1 – Find out if there is a wayleave

First you need to find out if there is a “wayleave” for the pole/apparatus to be on your property. A wayleave basically means that at some point in the past, a previous owner of the land entered into an agreement with Openreach (BT) giving them permission to site their equipment/apparatus (telegraph pole, green box, or anything else) where it is. Unfortunately, the agreement applies to the property even after it has been sold to someone else, who may not want the equipment there. The land owner would’ve received a small payment for this (and in theory the existing landowner should continue to receive an annual payment, but don’t get excited….we’re talking as little as a couple of ££ a year here so if you find there’s a wayleave in place, it’s probably not worth the hassle of chasing up payment).

If there’s a wayleave on your property, this may be the end of the line for your attempts. It means they don’t have to move the apparatus, or if they do move it they will charge you (we’re talking many thousands of ££, in all likelihood)

What we did

Our house deeds didn’t mention a wayleave, so to find out for sure I emailed archive.ripple@openreach.co.uk, and this is what my email said if you’d like to use it as a template (change the bold bits):

“Dear Sir/Madam,

Please could you let me know whether there exists a wayleave for a telephone pole which is situated within the front boundary of the following property:

88 My Road, Anytown, Whoville, RU21 4UC

If it helps you to identify the pole, it has 2 circular discs/badges on it which say “3A” and also a green rectangular badge above those with 9, 11, B and M punched out. I have attached a photo of these.

Thankyou in advance.

Yours faithfully,

Your Name”

ps. I attached a photo of the pole markings and described them, only because I had earlier asked them about the pole and they said they had no record of it even existing, so I thought I’d better give them a hand in identifying it. I’m still not sure if the photo/description was needed or helpful, but it didn’t hurt to add it in there.

pps. Initially I had emailed wayleaves.insitu@openreach.co.uk but it took them a whole month to reply. Using archive.ripple@openreach.co.uk I received a reply within a day.

BT Telegraph Pole

 

Outcome

The reply came back the next day:

“Good Morning,

Thank you for your email. I have carried out a search of our archive records and can find no wayleave in place for the pole on your property.

Regards,

Mrs Quick”

This was very good news, and time to move onto Step 2.

 

STEP 2 – Serve notice that you want the apparatus removed/relocated.

I served my notice on 28th January 2015, and at that time the following information was up to date and correct. The piece of legislation which applied is changed and updated all the time, so in addition to reading this post you should do some double-checking that this still applies (especially if you’re reading this many months or years down the line!)

So, there’s a piece of law called The Telecommunications Act 1984, and part of it relates to getting telecommunications apparatus moved from your property. It’s “The Telecommunications Code, Schedule 2, Paragraph 21 of the Telecommunications Act 1984” (scroll down to the bit you want, Paragraph 21 “Restriction on right to require the removal of apparatus”….you’ll find it makes fascinating reading ;))

Basically it says:

  • You need to send Openreach a letter by Recorded Delivery, giving them notice that you’d like the apparatus to be removed. (Recorded Delivery is trackable and requires a signature on receipt – keep the receipt which the Post Office gives you as proof. This is very important.)
  • Openreach then have 28 days to send you a counter-notice, saying that 1) you aren’t entitled to make them remove the apparatus, and 2) telling you what they propose to do to secure the right to keep the apparatus on your land (eg: if you remove the apparatus yourself, they will put it back etc).

Hopefully, you shouldn’t encounter this notice because you will have checked that they have no right to keep their apparatus on your land (no wayleave) so they should not be able to send you a letter telling you that you aren’t entitled to make them remove the apparatus.

If you do receive a counter-notice, I’d suggest you read this really helpful thread on the Moneysavingexpert forum, where people were discussing how to get a BT pole removed. (Please ignore those people suggesting cutting down or damaging the pole yourself…that’s obviously a very bad idea.) The forum poster received a counter-notice despite there being no wayleave, but he wrote back and argued the case, and because he was in the right they did eventually remove the pole on his land.

I found that thread early on, and then read the Telecommunications Code to back it up, so my next step was to write to the address with which someone on that forum post had success, and serve my notice.  Here’s what I wrote:

“Pole Objections
PP1A 1st Floor
York ATE
The Stonebow
YORK
YO1 7NT
Dear Sir/Madam,
With reference to The Telecommunications Code, Schedule 2, Paragraph 21 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, I am writing to give notice requiring you to please relocate or remove the pole which is situated in my front garden at 88 My Road, Anytown, Whoville, RU21 4UC.

I have been informed (by Mrs Quick, Wayleaves Archive Team, Openreach Central Operations) that no wayleave is in place for the pole on my property.
Yours faithfully,

Me.”

I waited and waited for 28 days, expected the counter-notice to arrive. When it didn’t arrive, I was really happy! If they don’t reply to a notice within 28 days, that means that you’re entitled to have the apparatus removed.  So then it was time to write them a letter (again sending it Recorded Delivery) stating that no counter-notice had been received, so they needed to remove the pole. This is what I wrote, 36 days after my first letter:

“Pole Objections
PP1A 1st Floor
York ATE
The Stonebow
YORK
YO1 7NT
Dear Sir/Madam,
Further to my notice dated 28th January 2015 (received by yourselves at 11.19am on January 30th 2015, signed for by “Betty”), requiring the relocation of the pole which is situated in my front garden at 88 My Road, Anytown, Whoville, RU21 4UC.

With reference to The Telecommunications Code, Schedule 2, Paragraph 21, Sub-paragraph 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, more than 28 days have elapsed since you received my notice, and I have not received a counter notice from you. I am now therefore entitled to enforce the removal of the pole/apparatus from my property, and recover from you any costs I incur in doing so.

I intend to exercise my right to remove the pole from my property and recover any associated costs from you, if you do not make acceptable arrangements with me to relocate or remove the pole yourselves by April 7th 2015.
Yours faithfully,

Me

Me@gmail.com

In retrospect, I’d probably replace the last paragraph with something about “please contact me to make arrangements for the removal of the pole” rather than saying I’d have the pole removed…imagine trying to find a tradesman to take that on!

This time I added my email address (but not my phone number…make sure you get everything in writing) in case I’d get a quicker reply that way.

Sure enough, 5 days later I received this email from complaints@openreach.co.uk:

“Dear You,

Thank you for your letter of 5th March 2015.

This pole has been in its current location for over 40 years and if you require it moving you would need to contact our External Network Relocation team on 0800 023 2023 Option 3 who will be able to help with your enquiry. Alternatively you may wish to contact our Wayleaves team at:- wayleaves.insitu@openreach.co.uk

Kind regards

Mrs Short

Complaints Management

Openreach”

 

I wasn’t very happy about this, because I had done my legal duty by sending a letter giving notice….nowhere in Schedule 2, Paragraph 21 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 does it say “You must ring such-and-such number, listen to a recorded list of options, select Option 3, and wait god-knows-how-long in a queue listening to repetitive bad crackly music for some badly-trained computer-says-no 19 year old to deign to answer the phone and no doubt tell you something unhelpful at the end of it all. And if you ring again, the next person will tell you something completely different”. (Can you tell I’ve had some bad experiences calling companies, and don’t like to do it?!).

 

Anyhoo, I thought I’d see what happened if I tried jumping through her hoop so I rang the aforementioned number (which was answered quite quickly) and spoke to (actually a very nice) lady – Mrs Nice – who told me that if you want to serve notice to Openreach they want you to ring her number and be emailed two documents: one is a letter from Openreach to you, and the other is a letter template for you to send notice to Openreach. After the phonecall Mrs Nice quickly emailed me the two documents. The first one, on Openreach headed paper said:

“Re: Your request for us to remove or re-site

[Click and type details of the plant that request covers]

Located at [Click and type plant address / location]

Dear You,

Further to your recent request to remove or re-site Openreach apparatus, we maintain our position that the apparatus in question is legally sited based on our rights within Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (“The Code”), as amended by the Communications Act 2003. More information is available from the government legislation website at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/12/schedule/2/enacted.

If you have reconsidered your position and now wish to progress with payment for the required works, please call one of our team on: 0800 023 2023 option 3 and we will be happy to help.

Openreach prefer to reach agreement with landowners who host our apparatus and will be happy to initiate a wayleave application if this is an option you now wish to pursue. Please complete the wayleaves request form at www.openreach.co.uk (Under Contact Us > Wayleaves)

If you still wish us to remove or re-site our apparatus, please find attached a template “Code Notice” which should be completed and sent using RECORDED DELIVERY mail to the address on the attached form.

Yours faithfully,

External Network Rearrangement, Openreach”

 

As you can see, when Openreach have their apparatus on your land without a wayleave their preference is to get you to sign a wayleave, so that they can legally keep it in place for evermore. Luckily my house doesn’t need BT for its services, otherwise I may have had to sign a wayleave and be stuck with the pole.  The other document, the letter template they wanted me to use, basically did exactly the same job as my original notice which they were hoping to just ignore. The main difference was that they wanted the notice to be sent to a different address to the one I had actually used:

“Openreach ENR Team

3rd Floor Lancaster House
Old Hall Street
Liverpool
Merseyside
L3 9PY
Openreach ref: [Click and type Openreach Ref]
Dear ENR Team,
I wish to formally request the [Click and type removal or re-siting] of [Click and type details of the apparatus in question] as per the code notice process detailed in Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 due to [Click and type the reason for the request (E.g. Development of the land or asthetics)]. This apparatus is located [Click and type address and location information (E.g. Rear of No. 12 Smith Street)].
If you require any further information, please contact me using the details above.
Yours Faithfully,
[Click and type your name]”

When I saw that they basically wanted me to send my notice again, but just using their template, I realised there was nothing wrong in the way I had sent my notice and the fact remained that they had failed to issue a counter-notice within 28 days. I sent a reply to the lady who had emailed in response to my 2nd letter to the “wrong address”, telling me to ring such-and-such number. I won’t post what I wrote because it’s long and probably not something you’ll need to use. But basically it said that the original address I sent my notice to is clearly in use (because she was replying from it), so they needed to move the pole because they had failed to send a counter-notice.

Mrs Short (or whoever opened my email) ignored that response, so after another week I sent another letter – it’s now 50 days since sending my letter of notice. This letter included copies of all the past letters/emails I had sent and was posted to the address I had now discovered that they preferred:

Openreach ENR Team
3rd Floor
Lancaster House
Old Hall Street
Liverpool
Merseyside
L3 9PY

Openreach ref: XXXXXX

Dear ENR Team,
This letter is written without prejudice.
I have filled in this template letter format at the written request of Mrs Nice on 10th March 2015, however formal notice was first served to you in a letter dated 28th January 2015, sent via recorded delivery and signed for by a representative of Openreach at 11.19am on January 30th 2015, to which you failed to provide a counter-notice. We fully reserve our legal rights under the aforementioned original letter, a copy of which I have enclosed.
I wish to formally request the removal or re-siting of the pole which is situated in my front garden as per the code notice process detailed in Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 due to unpleasant aesthetics. This apparatus is located within the boundary of my front garden at 88 My Road, Anytown, Whoville, RU21 4UC.
If you require any further information, please contact me using the details above.
Yours Faithfully,

Me.”

 

Then hallelujah! just over 3 weeks later I received a letter back from someone who I’ll call “Mr Boss” at Openreach saying:

“Dear You,

Thank you for your letter dated 19 March 2015 into the Openreach External Network Relocation (ENR) Team and other associated correspondence.

I am disappointed to see that you did not receive a reply or acknowledgement to your code notice letter of 28 January 2015 sent to out York Office. I concur that in light of this Openreach must now arrange to shift the pole and associated equipment to an alternative location at our own cost.”

He went on the ask me to reply with the Royal Mail Tracking number of my original notice to show that I had “followed the correct procedure of serving us a Code Notice via recorded delivery as outlined in the Communications Code”. He said that after this a plan of works would be built, and a surveyor would come to see the site within 60 days and the work completed within a further 90 days. I wrote back giving the tracking code.

Well, the surveyor had been out before I even received Mr Boss’ letter, and was a very pleasant chap, and it turned out that the pole could be removed rather than relocated as it only served us and one neighbour (the neighbours house could be served from a pole across the road instead).  Very quickly our house was disconnected from the pole (the neighbours remained attached).

Over the coming months there were a couple more phonecalls to the surveyor after the pole wasn’t removed when he said it would be, and after the 3rd phonecall the surveyor didn’t respond at all, so 9 months after my very first letter to them I sent another letter to Mr Boss saying:

“Mr Boss
Openreach
External Network Relocation Team
pp300, 3rd Floor Lancaster House
Old Hall Street
Liverpool
L3 9PY

Your ref: XXXXXX
Dear Mr Boss,

With reference to your letter dated 8th April 2015, in which you advised that where possible, Openreach would aim to execute the removal of the telegraph pole in our front garden within a total of 150 days.
Although I understand that this timescale is only an indication, we are concerned about the status of our case. The surveyor informed us back in July that the removal of the pole had been scheduled to take place in June, but that it was cancelled for reasons unknown to him. Since then he informs us that he has been emailing the necessary parties, without success, in an attempt to get the job rescheduled and completed.
It has now been 9 months since Openreach received our notice to remove the pole. Please would you investigate the status of our case and update us?

Yours sincerely,

Me.”

Openreach removing telegraph pole

Two weeks later, I heard talking and noises outside the house, and there I find 3 men from Openreach with 2 vans and a big lorry, working on removing the pole. All in all (excluding a tea break), I reckon it took them about 20 minutes to take out the pole. About 10 minutes of a man in a lift on the van, unscrewing bolts, then about 5 minutes for a whopping great arm on the lorry to easily pluck the pole out of the ground, then another 5 minutes of them filling the hole with 4 bags of sub-base. I imagine moving a pole would be a lot more work as they have to dig the new hole with the enormous drill on the whopping great arm etc, but removing it looked like a piece of cake!

And there we have it. From serving Openreach with notice, to the pole coming out of the ground: 9.5 months, 5 letters by recorded delivery, 1 email and 4 phonecalls. From the forum posts I’ve read, that’s normal…it’s not a quick process with Openreach. But I’m so happy it’s done! And for free (apart from the recorded letters).

On my list of things to improve about the house, that’s the first thing I’ve been able to cross off, and it really made my day.

Until next time x

 

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