MSP criticises BT’s failures over 8-day Ardentinny outage

The cut cable near Ardentinny shore earlier today

41 Ardentinny households and businesses are today facing a second week without phone lines and internet access. The main telephone cable along the shore was severed by falling branches from an overhanging tree at the Ardentinny Outdoor Centre during the height of the storm which ravaged much of Scotland last Tuesday morning (3 January).

BT initially advised that the line would be reconnected on Monday (9 January) and yesterday they further advised a reconnection date of Thursday 12th January. (see update below)

All homes and businesses on the north side of the village are affected including the Outdoor Centre, Dundaraich Stables, Glenfinart Hotel and caravan site. Several small businesses including artists and crafts people derive some of their income from internet sales. The additional problem of very poor mobile communications coverage in Argyll, makes the situation even worse for the community.

A spokesperson for a company based in Ardentinny said ‘Our online business derives some 60% of its sales from overseas. Both the UK and Scottish governments are actively encouraging rural communities, such as ours, to embrace e-commerce. However, this can only be possible with a robust telecoms infrastructure in place. Fortunately, our servers are based elsewhere in the world and our system is very much automated, however it is vital that we can provide support for our customers and this has been very difficult over the past week. Mobile 3G services which we could have utilised as a back-up are patchy at best in Ardentinny. For the past 7 days our only means of relatively fast internet access has been locating a 3G signal ‘on the road’.

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said “For any business or community interruption to power supplies and community ovations is a major matter.  Last week’s storms were exceptional but it is I think unacceptable for BT to expect any consumer to wait 9 days for reconnection and I have made that point to the company. They have performed better elsewhere but they need to sort the Ardentinny situation now.

The mobile phone companies have been particularly poor in their response. Local customers already receive a second class service, with virtually no access anywhere in Argyll & Bute to 3G, although charges are the same as those applied elsewhere.  It adds insult to injury to discover that the vast majority of O2 and Vodafone masts were out of service for most of last week, even in places  where power had been restored quickly. Indeed in Tiree the mast was still inoperable from the last storm on 8th December.  Mobile companies are failing the area and need to buck their ideas and services up.”

Update 15:30 Jan 10:
BT has advised us that they will endeavour to reconnect Ardentinny lines on Wednesday 11 January. We requested a comment from the BT Press Office, however as at time of publication, no communication has been received.

3am: Power restored to Ardentinny after 3-day blackout

Engineers on Thursday near the village hall.

One of the last places in Scotland to be reconnected after Tuesday’s blackout was Ardentinny at 3am on Friday morning.

Ardentinny residents had spent a third night without power to their homes and businesses. Along with many other parts of Scotland, severe gales early on Tuesday morning brought down power lines, mainly due to fallen trees.

Until lunchtime on Tuesday, Ardentinny village was totally cut-off with fallen trees on the main road at Glenfinart Caravan Park and at Gairletter. Local residents Jim Robinson, Guy Elder and a small team of volunteers used chainsaws to clear the Glenfinart road in atrocious conditions while local farmer David Marshall and his team cleared the road opposite Gairletter Caravan site in the late morning.

Part of a tree at Ardentinny Outdoor Centre fell on to the main shore road, narrowly missing a parked van and  shearing the main phone lines to residents on the northern end of the village.  Half the village is therefore without phone or broadband service. We understand that the phone service may not be reconnected until Monday (9th) evening. Mobile communications are also intermittent, due to the lack of power to the local mast.

Thursday saw the first arrival of engineers from Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD). Engineers could be seen throughout the village with several repairing fallen power lines between the village hall and Glenfinart Hotel. It was hoped that supplies would be restored on Thursday evening, however this did not happen. Given the difficult terrain around Ardentinny and the high density of forestation, engineers are having to survey the entire network for signs of damaged cables and equipment.

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution said the following: ‘The industry regulator, Ofgem. specifies through their ‘guaranteed standards’ exactly when and how much compensation SHEPD is required to pay to customers who have lost their electricity supply. In an exceptional storm event such as this, customers who have been without power continuously for more than 48 hours would normally be eligible for compensation.  However, SHEPD always assess claims on a case by case basis and may choose to make ex-gratia payments to customers which go beyond those required by Ofgem’.

Customers who believe they have grounds for making a claim should write to: Claims Department, Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution, Inveralmond House, 200 Dunkeld Road, Perth, PH1 3AQ.

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Fireworks frighten horses (and other animals!)

For many people Bonfire Night is an enjoyable evening watching spectacular firework displays and warming themselves by a bonfire, but for horse owners it can be a time of concern and distress.

Fireworks can frighten even the most sensible horse, so all horse owners should be prepared for the firework season. The British Horse Society (BHS) has issued the following advice for owners:
Fireworks must not be set off near livestock or horses in fields or stables
It is best to keep your horse in its normal routine
Risk assess your stable yard and plan to limit disturbance
Ensure you find out if there are any displays planned nearby
Warn local organisers, councils and schools that there are horses in the area
Organise your plans in advance
Remain calm and positive yourself as horses will sense your unease
Keep your horse in a familiar environment
Safety for everyone is the key – do not put yourself in danger
This advice is available as a downloadable poster, along with further information from www.horseaccidents.org.uk.
The BHS also supports the Blue Cross guidelines on Fireworks and Animals which is available at www.bluecross.org.uk and in paper format from both the Blue Cross and the BHS.
It is not just horse owners who need to be careful. People organising firework displays should inform local horse owners and it is also a good idea not to let off fireworks anywhere near fields or farms. Most people don’t realise how much suffering fireworks cause animals, particularly horses. Those who really want to have fireworks in their back garden should think carefully about how it will affect local pets and animals before they do so.

By being proactive in planning for fireworks and Bonfire Night, you can make the annual celebrations less stressful for you and your horse.

Useful resources:
www.horseaccidents.org.uk.
SSPCA – Fireworks.
RSPCA – Bang! Fireworks frighten animals.