National Parks England and the Home Office have agreed a deal to improve emergency service communications coverage in England’s National Parks in ways that respect their very sensitive environments.
Installing telecommunications masts in national parks in the UK is extremely difficult even for dedicated emergency services coverage. Airwave, the current provider of the UK’s emergency services communications network, took years to gain planning permission for some of its masts, despite the urgent need to ensure police, fire and ambulance services had coverage in national parks.
The new Joint Accord brokered between National Parks England and the Home Office is designed to make the process of negotiating mast sites easier. This is particularly necessary right now as the Home Office’s new Emergency Services Network (ESN) is in the process of rolling out 4G masts to meet the network coverage specifications. The 4G network provided by mobile operator EE will replace the Airwave TETRA two-way radio system.
The deal aims to:
• Support the roll-out of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) in National Parks so that users, visitors and residents can benefit from enhanced responsiveness by the blue-light services
• Protect the special qualities of the National Parks by minimising any adverse environmental impacts; and to support close working between the Home Office and its contractors and National Park Authorities to achieve these aims.
The Home Office said that with English National Parks covering almost 10% of the country, the new agreement is an important step forward in making sure rural communities have responsive emergency services.
Jim Bailey, Chair of National Parks England and the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “National Parks have always been about finding pragmatic long term solutions to the many competing demands on land. Ensuring modern telecommunications infrastructure is no different.
“The stunning landscapes and towns are the lifeblood for our rural economies. And we are delighted that the Home Office is committed to working with National Parks to protect them. This is a welcome sign that we hope will be replicated by other Government departments.”
Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Fire and Criminal Justice and Victims, said: “I am pleased to have signed this Joint Accord with National Parks England which will help deliver the emergency services’ new communications network.
“This new critical national infrastructure will be sympathetic to the character of national parks in England. It will enable the three emergency services to operate enhanced services inside national parks using modern 4G voice and fast data service communications.”
The Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme is a cross-departmental initiative led by the Home Office. It is the largest, most complex programme in the Home Office at present. The programme hopes to enable future levels of government spending on emergency services mobile communications to be reduced by up to £1 million a day.
The Programme is due to be completed by late 2019 and is responsible for developing and implementing the replacement to the current Airwave service. This new service, the Emergency Services Network (ESN) will operate across England, Scotland and Wales and will be used by the police, fire and rescue services, ambulance trusts and other public safety and security organisations.