Transmitter company Arqiva is preparing to switch on a new temporary replacement Freeview tower on Bilsdale West Moor. This will affect households in North Yorkshire, Teesside and parts of County Durham.
The new temporary structure, designed to withstand adverse weather on the Moors, is due to provide a more reliable Freeview signal for viewers mainly in North Yorkshire and Teesside.
Arqiva is currently planning to switch services to the new site on Wednesday 23rd February.
100,000 homes will benefit from a more reliable signal from the new temporary mast until then. But the location and height of the temporary tower means hills on the northern edge of the North York Moors will create a signal shadow across the eastern half of County Durham.
As a result, Arqiva engineers have written to around 2,500 homes in the affected area, offering a free aerial repointing service. In many cases, the TV aerial can be repointed to face one of Arqiva’s other transmitters in the North East.
Last week, North Yorkshire Police warned of fake Freeview engineers turning up unannounced to ‘restore’ TV services. Police warned homeowners not to let them in.
Arqiva’s engineers won’t turn up without an appointment and won’t demand payment. Arqiva’s official support site is www.bilsdalemast.co.uk, which contains details of the support services available to viewers in the area.
The switch comes six months after the original transmitter site was affected by a fire.
Why the change?
The existing temporary mast went live in October, but has already been subject to weather-related outages. The 80 metre structure was designed for quick and short-term replacement coverage. It didn’t require the normal full planning process required for other types of transmission towers and masts.
The new temporary tower of a similar height was approved by North York Moors planning authority for a limited period of time, during which work on a full sized replacement towering over 300 metres above the hilltop can be completed.
Plans for that full-sized replacement mast are currently being reviewed by the North York Moors planning authority following a public consultation. If approved, work on the mast will start this spring. But services won’t be live from the new site until at some point in 2023.
Why can’t the temporary mast cover everyone?
It isn’t high enough to appear over the top of the hills. Take this example, courtesy of Google Street View:
In November 2010 on the left, Bilsdale mast appears like a needle on top of the the moors. By November 2021, the original mast had been felled. A new shorter mast was live. But as you can see from the right image – there’s no sign of the mast peeking over the top of the hill. The location is in a signal shadow. Only a full size mast tall enough will reach all areas previously covered by the old mast.
Construction of a full-size mast takes longer and needs to go through lengthy planning processes. A shorter, temporary mast can be deployed to get services up and running in weeks, rather than years.
Extra relays to fill in coverage gaps will continue to be live until the permanent replacement goes live.
What happens if I lose my TV signal on Wednesday?
Arqiva says if homeowners lose their TV signal, they should try retuning. Assistance is available via bilsdalemast.co.uk/retune-instructions or Arqiva’s dedicated freephone helpline on 0800 121 4828.
- The go-live date is weather dependant and we’ll update this article if there are any changes.