Progress Report – November 2020

Progress Report – November 2020

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We’ve had a lot of progress in the month since our last post. There’s a lot of important information here so do please do read to the end. We’ve got big news about starting to build in just weeks hopefully before Christmas, there’s a big green box coming to Barrasford! Which will be a great Christmas present to the community! We need the communities support more than ever – both practically as we need more volunteers as we move into phase 3 the dig/building phase with several new roles we will need help with. We also need help financially in terms of Investment (with returns!) as part of the project. Lastly, we’ve updated this website and added volunteer and Investment sections as well as making it work better on tablets and phones!

Moving into the build phase of the project!

We’re excited to say we had our first (socially distanced) meeting outside Barrasford village hall today to confirm the position of the 1st B4RN cabinet for our project. 

Lynne R, Paul E and Richard Haycock (Chair of the Barrasford Village Hall) met with Nick Hall (Head of Civil Engineering), Cheryl Walmsley (Project Manager) from B4RN and Peter Dodd our local B4RN mole plough contractor.
We discussed the next phase of the Barrasford project and went over the placement of the cabinet. 

Marked and measured up for a B4RN cabinet

Nick expects the cabinet to be up and installed by Christmas.  Once we have the dates we will organise some press coverage to advertise this significant step. The box will be central to the project and for housing this the village hall will receive a completely free connection!

Volunteers – we need you!

While the project so far has been mainly about engaging with the community and lots of planning, things are now shifting to practical, on the ground work that is going to directly help you and others in your community.

If you wish to volunteer and help out more see the links to our volunteer info above or fill in a volunteer form at

Volunteer training will be given for the different roles listed below.

As we move into the build phase for the Barrasford project we will be looking for people who are interested the following…

Village champions – They’ll be people who help look at the mapping and routing via online mapping (within google maps). They will look at the practically of how to work things in the village and be able to liaise with local home owners. They will lead efforts within their village to bring connections form the main routes into the homes. There may be some local planning of digs, equipment organisation etc.

Home Installers – They’ll be people with DIY level skills, they will learn from B4RN how to install the B4RN home kits and 6mm orange ducting across home owners curtilage to hook into the main route.

B4RN dig grants would be paid to B4NTR as a group helping to fund our work and equipment. B4RN will give (socially distanced) volunteer training for this.

This can also be paid work for local contractors. If you know anyone locally who might be interested ask them to get in touch, again training is provided by B4RN and once completed B4NTR will add your name to the B4RN approved list and pass this on to interested parties.

Equally if home owners feel up to the task of doing this themselves, they can simply keep their dig grant.

For the home kit, Installers need fit a fibre outlet internally, drill through the outer wall, fit an external box and then pull through and a ready made fibre which just sits in the external box ready for splicing. The splicing is then done separately without needing access to the home. Overall it’ll look similar to the first half of video below.

Installers will also need to work out how (with the home owner) and bury the 6mm orange ducting/pipe across the owners curtilage to the box on the outer wall.

Fibre Splicers – Highly skilled (and desirable) work. These people need to be patient with keen eye sight since they need to melt together glass fibres the thickness of a human hair! Volunteers who do this will be trained by B4RN to blow fibre from the nearest chamber into peoples outer wall boxes and then fuse the fibres in the box together with those blown from the chamber. The second half of the video below shows a similar procedure. (It should start it from the relevant point when you click play)

We need to get started on the above right away, so as soon as the main route is built we can have householders ready to connect up right away. We still also need volunteers to help in planning within the Woodburn and Kirkwhelpington projects, we’re going to be heading their way soon.

Costs and Investment

We’ve got a new investment page at which covers many of the details below and more.

We’ve never liked to make a big deal of the costs involved in the project in-case they seem insurmountable to the community. Even with all the help from volunteers and local landowners, this is still a multi-million-pound project for our area. No typical telecoms provider would be able to deliver anything close for a similar cost and would likely be in tens of millions of pounds.

The B4NTR is split into 3 areas, starting in the Barrasford Project (yellow) and building out into Kirkwhelpington (blue) and Woodburn (orange) projects

We plan to deliver fibre broadband at gold-standard directly to every single household who wants it. We only want to do a project like this once, we’ve put a great deal of thought into other (easier) options but they are likely to be outdated soon. The fibre we’re putting into the ground now should be the copper of the future and hopefully last 100 years!

We’re working in an area over 230km squared (almost 57,000 acres) and covering 1400 properties. Not just that, but profits from monthly fees will eventually be coming back into the community for worthwhile causes similar to the Ray Wind Fund CIC.

With our volunteer work and planning through B4RN, the government and iNorthumberland (for broadband vouchers), landowners agreeing to waive wayleaves fees and Ray Wind Funds for seed funding, we’ve covered a huge majority of the cost already. It feels like we’ve been given a golden ticket and we don’t want all this to go to waste!

B4RN are asking for some INVESTMENT from the community to show them the community (you) believe in the project as much as we (the volunteers) do or the project won’t go ahead.

In the past, B4RN projects were always built by getting 100% investment money from the community. They bought shares in B4RN for £1 per share and this money went into building the projects. Then once connected the monthly fees would build up and be able to pay back the community. As much as it was money to build, it also showed the communities commitment to getting connected.

Info and Examples of previous B4RN projects Funding-
B4AV – Allen Valley’s Northumberland on BBC News

So what are B4RN asking for? -A total of £47,000 for the first phase of the B4NTR project build which will cover the villages of Barrasford, Birtley, Gunnerton, Barrasford Park, Great Swinburn, Colwell, Chollerton, and all properties in between.

That’s less than 5% of the overall build cost for the area, and you get INTEREST paid on the amount you invest.

Remember, this would be an INVESTMENT in B4RN shares, not a cost and can be withdrawn in full after THREE years. B4RN’s shares currently have a yearly interest rate of 5%, which you can withdraw each year and if you invest at least £1500 B4RN also waive your installation fee of £150. If just 30 people invested £1500 we’d be ready to build all the way to the Corsenside and Kirkwhelpington areas, these areas will then have their own similar investment targets.

If this interests you please follow the link below to learn more about the scheme and how to invest.

Link to B4RN investment information on their website

Investment is open to all in the community whether they have registered for a B4RN voucher or not. It would be great if you could spread the word to your local community.  

As you may already know, B4RN is a non-profit community benefit society which offers the opportunity to invest in them.  By investing you become a shareholder of B4RN and so have a vote in the direction of your future broadband supplier.

If you are not able to help in any other ways but are still keen to see the project go forward, we still need sign-ups. Just click the “sign-up” link at the top of this page to fill out a simple form on B4RN’s website. You can click an option to defer to the end of your BT contract so you don’t have to worry if you can not take up the service immediately. We need people to continue to do this as the government broadband vouchers help us fund the majority of the project build.

For when you sign-up – How Goverment Gigabit Vouchers Work…

We hope you see the importance of having a good internet connection, in these times of a pandemic more than ever and hope you can see all the future benefits this would bring to our area, both personally and for business.

Kind Regards,

The B4NTR Volunteer Team!

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