Interim Bilsdale mast to be operational by end of February, but 2,500 homes could lose signal again

110821 - Bilsdale temporary mast - ITV

An interim mast at Bilsdale, North Yorkshire, is to be turned on at the end of February, but engineers need to repoint aerials at 2,500 homes on the County Durham coastline to avoid another loss of TV service.

The original Bilsdale mast was destroyed by a fire in August 2021, leaving more than a million homes without TV or radio signal for weeks.

Arqiva, the company in charge of the mast, briefed journalists on Wednesday to say it has a 'mitigation plan' in place to avoid any further outages.

Households in Seaham and Blackhall were specifically identified as areas possibly affected, and are advised to contact Arqiva to book engineers to attend their properties, to repoint their TV aerials in time for the switch over.

Footage from Arqiva of the Bilsdale mast being demolished in October 2021

Shuja Khan, Chief Commercial Officer of Arqiva, said: "We want to restore and improve services to people across the region as quickly as possible, and today we have set out more details and likely timescales through 2022, including a huge construction project to permanently replace the old Bilsdale Mast.

“While we are making real progress, we also know that this work can cause disruption, and that is frustrating for many viewers and listeners. We are working hard with our partners to restore services, and to support those people whose services are affected.”

The company said it has enough capacity to repoint all of the aerials required to ensure those 2,500 households identified will continue to have an uninterrupted service.

The company said the interim mast will also provide more than 100,000 homes with an improved TV signal.

The work completed so far during 'Project Restore' has included the construction of the temporary mast at Bilsdale and 13 relay sites across the region to improve service quality.

That work has enabled almost 98 per cent of households in the transmission area to receive free-to-air public service broadcast programming, and more relay sites are expected to follow.

Bilsdale mast fire: The story so far

New Permanent Mast by Spring 2023Arqiva said it hopes to have planning permission granted in order to commence the construction of a permanent Bilsdale mast, which is expected to be 303 metres tall and will involve teams of more than 100 workers, by autumn this year and for it to be operational by the Spring of 2023.

However, the company gave the caveat that the construction of the new Bilsdale mast, which will become one of the UK’s tallest structures and is only a few metres smaller than The Shard in London, is a significant engineering challenge.

It said the scale and complexity of the project in a remote and environmentally-sensitive location, using a bespoke design, along with the impact of the weather at the moor top site, mean that the finish date for the project can only be an estimate.