North West broadband boost as Openreach targets ‘harder to reach’ areas

Openreach today outlined plans to make ultrafast, ultra-reliable and future-proof broadband available in 41 market towns and villages in the North West.

It’s part of a bigger announcement involving 227[1] ‘harder to reach’ areas across the UK, with building to start in the next 14 months. It’s part of Openreach’s previously stated target to reach four million homes and businesses with ‘full fibre’ technology by the end of March 2021.

The new locations in the North West, including Congleton, Lymm, Middlewich, Rufford, Fleetwood, Garstang and West Bradford, are part of the company’s ambition to extend its new ‘full’ fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network outside cities.

The work builds on successful cost busting village trials launched at the tail end of last year - including Tarporley, Mickle Trafford, Hesketh Bank and Parbold - which have seen engineers developing a range of new tools, skills and techniques to help Openreach build full fibre in areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership Director in the North of England, said: “This is great news for people living and working here and builds on Openreach’s strong track record of working in rural areas, for years playing a key role alongside local councils to upgrade more than 97 per cent of the North West to superfast broadband. Today’s announcement is about taking that next step and building a full fibre network that is not only faster, but also more reliable and future-proof for generations to come.”

There are clear economic benefits to building full fibre in rural areas. In a report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth” - commissioned by Openreach in 2019, revealed that connecting everyone in the North West to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £5.5 billion boost to the region’s economy.

The report also revealed that 54,000 people in the region could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity. This could include roles within small businesses and entrepreneurs – as well as allowing thousands more people to work remotely., by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.

Openreach’s CEO, Clive Selley, said: “Our full fibre build programme is going great guns - having passed over 2 million premises already on the way to our 4m target by March 2021. We’re now building at around 26,000 premises a week in over 100 locations – reaching a new home or business every 23 seconds. That’s up from 13,000 premises a week this time last year.

 “Openreach has always been committed to doing our bit in rural Britain - delivering network upgrades in communities that are harder to reach and less densely populated. We intend to build a significant portion of our full-fibre network in these harder to reach areas of the UK and are announcing 227 locations today.

 “Our ambition is to reach 15 million premises by mid-2020s if right investment conditions are in place. Currently, the biggest missing piece of this puzzle is getting an exemption from business rates on building fibre cables which is critical for any fibre builder’s long-term investment case.”

Openreach recently reached over two million homes and businesses with full fibre technology and a quarter of its existing footprint already falls within rural areas. More than 120,000 homes and businesses – including around 7,000 in North West - have also signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) scheme. The CFP programme enables the company to work with a local community to build a customised co-funded solution and bring fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.

To view the full list of market towns and villages included in this phase of build, please visit our website

More than 3,500 Openreach people live and work in the North West.

The 41 locations being announced in the North West are:


Congleton, Chester South, Croft, Frodsham, Overton, Netherton, Booths Hill, Heatley, Lymm, Middlewich, Reddish, Sandiway, Cuddington, Culcheth, Delamere Park, Neston, Tarvin, Winsford, Oughtrington, Brinscall, Abbey Village, Wheelton, Withnell, Burscough, West Bradford, Waddington, Clitheroe, Pendleton, Croston, Eccleston, Fleetwood, Garstang, Calder Vale, Great Eccleston, Elswick, Hambleton, Knott End-On-Sea, Preesall, Longridge, Rufford and Mawdesley.

[1] These are distinct from the Fibre Cities Programme (encompassing cities, towns & boroughs) forward looking view of our build plans here and total excludes the 13 pilot rural locations previously announced in October 2019. See release here .