Bilsdale Mast demolished after fire

The mast had served the southern part of the North East region and North Yorkshire, with the structure opened in 1969.

Arqiva, the company which owns and operates the Bilsdale mast, earlier today demolished the 314m structure, which was damaged by a fire on the 10th August resulting in the loss of television and radio services in the area, with a controlled explosive detonation.

“Safety is our number one priority and once we had clearance to fell the mast, and identified a suitable weather window, we acted quickly.” – Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva

Following comprehensive investigations, the 500-tonne structure was considered beyond repair. As a result, it was brought down by a specialist team using controlled detonations in order to preserve sections for the continuing forensic investigation into the cause of the fire. The direction of dismantling was specifically chosen to minimise the impact on the surrounding environment.

Arqiva will also ensure the moorland is restored fully, whilst also taking specific measures to minimise the impact of the clean-up activity.

As the damaged mast was deemed unsafe, an exclusion zone was set up in a two-kilometre circumference around it as part of the dismantling operation. Today’s dismantling work was not publicised in advance to ensure safety and minimise the risk to those involved in the dismantling.

The computer-generated version of the Bilsdale mast in the Network North titles, 1993-1995.

A temporary, 80-metre tower close to the original mast is currently nearing completion which will restore TV services to more than 90% of households across the region. Arqiva is also setting up an online hub that will provide up-to-date information on help and support for priority groups affected by the loss of TV services, including how to retune or repoint your TV. It will be found at bilsdalemast.co.uk 

The mast was built in 1969 and has provided TV and radio services to North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and County Durham ever since including BBC North and Tyne Tees Television. The mast, in computer-generated form, was used in the opening and closing sequences to the TTTV news programme Network North, which transmitted solely from the Bilsdale Transmitter. Tyne Tees Today aired across the northern part of the region from Pontop Pike, located in County Durham and Chatton, situated in Northumberland.

“The site is on remote moorland, and there is around 2km of perimeter that we have to secure before the mast could be brought down. This mast has been a part of the landscape in this area for decades, and we continue to work hard to restore TV services to those people affected by the fire.”  – Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva

Earlier this week speaking to the media in Whitby, Paul Donovan – chief executive of Arqiva – noted that once the temporary mast is switched on later this month it will reveal which addresses still do not receive a signal. Additional, smaller, relay towers will then be built at identified sites to help fill in these so-called “not spots” of TV coverage.

Mr Donovan showed maps of the estimated not-spots. More than 90% of households will have had their TV services restored following the switch-on, but some coastal and Dales areas in North Yorkshire and southern parts of County Durham are likely to be amongst the places where services are not restored by the temporary mast and where further measures will be required.

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