ESMCP: National Parks England and the Home Office sign Joint Accord
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

National Parks England and the Home Office have signed a joint accord that aims to support the rollout of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) in National Parks, protect the Parks' special qualities by minimising any adverse environmental impacts from the programme and support close working between the two organisations to achieve these aims.

The Joint Accord (dated 25 May) can be seen here. It states that both parties seek to "collaborate in the roll-out of the [ESMCP] programme so that users, visitors and those residents living in our National Parks will benefit from the Emergency Services Network and any commercial mobile services which result".

As part of a list of the measures that will be taken to achieve the Joint Accord's main objectives, it states that: "Options to minimise adverse landscape effects in National Parks should include consideration of mast-sharing, site-sharing and any other technical advances where this would provide the required coverage and represent an acceptable environmental solution."

The importance of the Joint Accord to the overall success of the ESMCP project can be gauged by the fact that English National Parks cover almost 10 per cent of the country. The text of the agreement also notes that: "The benefits of modern communications technology are likely to be greater in National Parks than other rural locations because of their high volume of tourists, (approximately 90 million visitors per annum in England) in addition to the needs of their resident population."

The ESMCP programme is working to migrate the UK's emergency services from the current TETRA network operated by Airwave to an LTE network, the Emergency Services Network (ESN), which will be operated by EE. Speaking at the recent Critical Communications World 2016 event in Amsterdam, Gordon Shipley, programme director, ESMCP, at the Home Office said that the current switch-off date for the Airwave TETRA network is 31 December 2019.

Above right, L-R: Minister of State for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims Rt. Hon Mike Penning MP and the Chair of National Parks England, Jim Bailey, signing the Accord

“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 that 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.”

"I am pleased to have signed this Joint Accord with National Parks England which will help deliver the emergency services’ new communications network," said Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Fire and Criminal Justice and Victims. "This new critical national infrastructure will be sympathetic to the character of national parks in England. It will enable the three emergency services to operate enhanced services inside national parks using modern 4G voice and fast data service communications.”

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