Since the initial huge blaze hit the the 300m tall mast on the North York Moors in early August, which provides digital TV signals for most of North Yorkshire and large parts of north-east England, Arqiva has introduced a series of temporary measures to help some but not all viewers in North Yorkshire get back their missing digital terrestrial TV channels.
But its bid to erect a more efficient temporary 80m has been bogged down in access issues with landowners and the judicial system over the rules protecting the site which is classified as a European Special Protection Area and is located in a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
But Arqiva now says a team of around 100 people began construction work at Bilsdale on Monday with materials being transported into place and ground preparation beginning for the mast’s installation.
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The team are working at pace to clear the site and put foundations in place for the ground-based transmission equipment.
Once operational, the 80m-high temporary mast is expected to provide Freeview TV signals to an area covering over 90% of households which were served by the existing Bilsdale mast, which was damaged by fire on August 10.
The clearance includes excavating heather after which the area will be re-seeded. Stone used on site has also had to be specially selected to ensure the right levels of acidity for the surrounding environment.
Arqiva says its priority is working with organisations across the affected area including local councils, housing associations, charities and also local MPs to reach and support those who may remain without signal following the mast build, and to prioritise the most vulnerable people affected.
Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva has said that “We are working 24/7 to restore services to as many people as possible across the North-East and North Yorkshire.
"This is complex work, involving multiple agencies and highly skilled teams. We are fully committed to the task at hand.”
Once erected, the temporary mast is unlikely to prove the end of the battle to restore Freeview services for thousands of TV and radio viewers to full normality in a permanent fashion
As the new temporary mast will not be permanently tied down, it may not be suitable over the winter months of wind and rain.
Arqiva have previously indicated that another replacement mast would likely be needed after three months but that would have to seek full planning permission.
In the meantime, a video is now available of initial construction activity on site and can be viewed here.
Further updates on the work to restore service are expected to follow in due course.
The latest information on the situation can be found on Arqiva’s website and further advice is also available from Freeview at: https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale.