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Government reaches accord over ESN in National Parks England

The Home Office reaches an agreement with National Parks England over the provision of mobile coverage for the emergency services

The Home Office has signed a joint accord with National Parks England to ensure a vast swathe of the country is not left behind when it comes to mobile coverage for the emergency services.

The deal sets out how EE – which won the contract to provide the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) under the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) in 2015 – will be able to fulfil its obligation to cover the entire country.

Up to now, blue light services have relied on a private radio network, which is to be phased out over the next few years.

Because the ESN will use mobile phone masts, it has become necessary to ensure that new infrastructure needed to support it will not blight some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

“National Parks have always been about finding pragmatic, long-term solutions to the many competing demands on land,” said Jim Bailey, chair of National Parks England and the North York Moors National Park Authority.

“Ensuring modern telecommunications infrastructure is no different. The stunning landscapes and towns are the lifeblood for our rural economies, and we are delighted 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.”

With National Parks from Sussex to Northumberland covering 10% of England, National Parks England said it was important that residents and visitors could benefit from the same enhanced emergency services responsiveness as the rest of the country; that the innate qualities of the National Parks were protected; and that collaboration between the Home Office, its contractors and National Parks England was supported.

Read more about ESN

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  • Home Office names EE and O2 among the preferred bidders to build the new Emergency Services Network.
  • In his first major interview since walking away from the Emergency Services Network procurement, Airwave COO John Lewis reveals why his company could take no further part in the process.

The two parties have committed to a number of objectives to ensure the ESN roll-out can go ahead as wanted. Notably, the accord provides for options to minimise “adverse landscape effects”, such as mast and site sharing, and consideration of alternative network designs and innovative proposals where masts are not practical.

“I am pleased to have signed this Joint Accord with National Parks England, which will help deliver the emergency services’ new communications network. This critical national infrastructure will be sympathetic to the character of national parks in England,” said Mike Penning, minister for policing, fire and criminal justice and victims.

“It will enable the three emergency services to operate enhanced services inside national parks using modern 4G voice and fast data service communications.”

The ESN is expected to be mostly up and running by the end of 2019, although it will come into effect bit-by-bit as existing communications contracts with radio operator Airwave expire.

It will operate across England, Scotland and Wales. Besides the police, fire and ambulance services, the ESN will be used by the National Crime Agency, the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, National Police Air Service and a number of other government and local public safety bodies.

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