Stop Press

New Parish Council minutes from September and the agenda for the October Meeting are now available.

The latest External Audit of the Council's Annual Return has also been posted on the Parish Council's  'Transparency Information' page.

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From Your Own Correspondent

Written by The Editor on .

Here your Editor is publishing a new email thread opened up with Orange, picking up from an earlier one between our new Parish Council Clerk, Greg Burt and 'Customer Relations' at the Company.  Of course there is no guarantee that there will be a reply, especially as they now realise that whatever they say will be published.  However if there is a lack of response, it will also tell a (sorry) story.

Please Note: Editorial comments are highlighted and the newest email in the thread will always be the one at the top of this article.  If the correspondence becomes protracted, older emails will be archived as links.

From: Nick Birch <my email addressThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;
Subject: Cocking Signal Loss - Attn: XXX XXX and / or XXX XXX
Date: 22 October 2014 11:12:02 BST
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear Orange Customer Relations,

Sadly you have not been able to reply to my recent email yet, but I thought I would keep you informed of the latest developments in the village in relation to the 10 week absence of an Orange mobile phone signal, even if my emails become a monologue.

BBC South Today re-visited Cocking this morning, calling first on early riser, local farmer and Parish Council Chair, Richard Marks before conducting a ‘vox pop’ on the green by our children’s playground.  Luckily it was a pleasant sunny morning and the footage should therefore be good.  This gave local residents and customers such as myself the opportunity, once again, to air their dissatisfaction not only with the longstanding lack of signal, but also by the singular lack of clear communication between Orange / EE and its users.

Please remember that my invitation to you to communicate to your customers via the village website - - remains open.  I do hope you take advantage of that opportunity soon as you silence is becoming deafening.


Nick Birch

BBC at Cocking Again











From: Nick Birch <my email address>
Subject: Attention: XXXXX XXXXXXX
Date: 20 October 2014 13:27:12 BST
Cc: Burt Greg <cocking parish council's email address>
To: <orange customer relations' email address>


I have seen your email to Greg Burt, the Cocking Parish Council Clerk, about the 10 week lack of a mobile signal from the mast overlooking our village.

Frankly at this stage your reply is entirely inadequate and in fact it didn’t make any sense technically.  Your suggestion that customers dial 150 is also ridiculous.  Many have done so and are irate at the time that has wasted to no effect.

I am about to post your email on the village website along with a report of the second round of BBC Radio Sussex interviews about your service that was aired this morning.  We have also been featured on BBC TV South Today and you will no doubt continue to receive adverse publicity from many quarters  (e.g. BBC’s Watchdog who did a piece last week on 16th October) as apparently this sort of problem is common.

Your failure to field anyone on BBC Sussex this morning was emphasised by their presenter, but it came as no surprise I am afraid.

If you want to discuss this with me or can find anyone who really knows what is going on you can do so on my landline 01730 XXXXXX.


Nick Birch

From: <orange customer relations' email address>
Date: 20 October 2014 11:16
Subject: Re: Re: <no subject>
To: Cocking Parish Council <cocking parish council's email address>
Good morning Mr Burt

Re: postcode GU29 XXX

As discussed please ask your parishioners to call our Customer Services on 0845 41250000 or if they are in an area with signal, 150 free from their mobile phone. We can then get a clearer picture of what is happening and get our engineers on the case as soon as possible.

Kind regards

Customer Relations

Yes, Orange are actually saying that after 10 weeks, they really ought to find out what is happening and get their engineers on the case as soon as possible. How reassuring that is!

If you have a contract with Orange by all means contact them if you have a spare hour on your hands.  Take the opportunity of letting them know what you think of their customer service and arrange a rebate of rental while you are on the line.

Restoring the Flow

Written by The Editor on .

Bumble Kite - EastJulie Massey could remember when Costers Brook flowed freely through Bumble Kite and decided to do something about the build up of reeds and weeds that had progressively choked it.

So she assembled a small team of 'fit volunteers' - husband Alan, Paul Henshaw and Mike Hauffe - who together made a first attack on the undergrowth last Saturday.  The working party encountered reeds that were so well established that they needed a pick axe to dig them up and improve the profile of the stream bed.

We are told that the team will be revisiting the site to continue the work over the next few days and that they would welcome anyone else who would like to help - wellies, gloves and old clothes essential.

Bumble Kite - West

Renewed Concern over A&E at St Richard's

Written by The Editor on .

St Richards A&EReaders may be aware that a large contract for musculosketal services has been awarded to BUPA and a Surrey-based community service rather than to the local Western Sussex Hospitals and Sussex Community NHS Trusts who had also submitted bids.  Western Sussex, the trust that runs both St. Richards and Worthing & Southlands Hospitals, has raised concerns that this move by the local commissioning organisation, Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, could destabilise their local Accident & Emergency services.  In response to local interest in maintaining a locally-based accident and emergency facility, a petition is now under way.

The petition states the following, "We, the undersigned, call for a guarantee from Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, that accident and emergency and orthopaedic services at St Richard's Hospital will be safeguarded following the award of a £235m contract for orthopaedic services to Bupa CSH Ltd"

You can view and, if you want to, sign the petition online at this link.

BBC Investigate Loss of Mobile Signal

Written by The Editor on .

Satellite Van37 days from the original outage on 11th August, the BBC today visited Cocking and area to run a story on the loss of the Orange/EE mobile signal and its effect on this rural community.  Having been contacted by former Chair of the Parish Council, Frances Russell,  Simon Jenkins, a reporter for BBC Radio Sussex arrived just after 7 a.m. to interview Frances and myself, while a South Today camera team arrived some time after 9 a.m. to talk to villagers. Tellingly, it took Simon a long time to upload the interviews via BT broadband, used the landline to speak to his office and had to deploy his satellite dish (see picture) to finish the uploads.

Simon Jenkins and Frances RussellSimon was told that villagers were complaining not just about the prolonged lack of service, but also the lack of communication from Orange (EE) and the great difficulty users are having contacting anyone via their call centres.  Callers have experienced long delays of up to 25 minutes before hearing a human voice and there has been a high level of inconsistency in the responses from the company.  By comparing notes, villagers have realised that the explanations for the loss of signal and when it might return have been inconsistent and they also know that Orange have offered differing levels of compensation to their customers.  At least one customer has already had two months' rental refunded while your Editor and one or two other villagers have been able to persuade EE to supply them with a device to restore the mobile signal in their homes.

These useful devices (called Signal Boxes by EE) plug into domestic Broadband Routers (e.g. BT Home Hubs), link to the EE/Orange network and provide a 3G mobile signal within a range of about 15 metres. This solution has worked well for your Editor in Lamberts Yard and has led to the neighbours 'lurking' outside his kitchen to obtain a signal for themselves.

TV CrewLater, BBC Radio Sussex interviewed current Parish Council Chair, Richard Marks, who lives only a few hundred yards from the defunct Mobile Mast.  Richard said that he is 'lucky' in that from his house on Cocking Hill he occasionally receives a weak signal from distant masts at Midhurst or Milland.  He also told the reporter that his Farm Shop business had been adversely affected by the loss of mobile communications because he could not use his card payment system.

The BBC South Today team arrived as promised and covered much of the same ground, but with better pictures.  They interviewed Frances attempting to speak to someone at Orange only to be told that there would be a 20 minute delay.  They then took shots of the EE Signal Box and the Mast shrouded in mist before visiting Richard Marks on the farm for a final intervew.  We now wait to see how much, if any, of the footage will make it to the South Today broadcast this evening and what effect the publicity will have on Orange.

Wot No Mast Still?

Written by The Editor on .

Disappearing Mast

Some readers will remember that back in May 2013 the Orange cellular mast on top of Cocking Hill failed to transmit mobile phone signals for about 12 days (although the mast itself did not actually go missing).

Sadly, history now appears to be repeating itself.  Intermittent outages last week have been followed by a complete lack of signal since Monday morning (11th August).  We believe this problem affects customers of EE (Orange and T-Mobile), and '3' as these companies share the mast.

Due to geography and possibly lack of investment, Cocking is ill-served for mobile coverage generally.  Without the local mast the village is lucky to receive a patchy and weak signal from another mast miles away. Even when the local mast is working it does not provide the modern 3G (let alone 4G) signals that are needed to browse the web effectively on mobile devices.  Coupled with the relatively poor Broadband service in the village, Cocking stubbornly remains a slow-spot.

Click here for an interesting Guardian article on the subject of poor (not necessarily missing) mobile signals and the attitude of the networks once the customer has signed a contract.  Nationally, EE has about 28 million mobile customers and so it seems that a few hundred customers in the South Downs are not a high priority.


Thu 14/08 12:00

Having contacted EE Technical Support, was told that the fault actually lies in another (T-Mobile) mast that normally provides our signal via a link (presumably a line of sight microwave link).  That mast was reported as being out of action two days ago and the company claim to be working on the problem.  Thus Cocking's mast seems to be the end of a line and it won't be of much comfort, but there must be at least another community 'up the line' with the same lack of signal.

Fri 15/08 15:00

Although they seemed to have a slightly different view of what had gone wrong, Orange Technical Support nevertheless claimed that the problem should be fixed by Monday or Tuesday next week i.e after up to 8 or 9 days outage.  Happily they didn't finish the call by saying that they hoped I would have a 'have a good weekend'.  Customer service training?

Tue 19/08 07:00

Not really an update, but just to note that this was the day by which Orange had said they would fix the problem.  Let's hope they do, but various villagers have contacted them and been given no definite date.  Some have already been promised rebates on rental and so it seems worthwhile for customers to brave the support line and insist on compensation.

Fri 22/08 16:00

No more news and obviously Orange don't give out any reliable information or realistic estimates of when the problem will be fixed.  It is to be hoped that a lot of customers are now getting the two months rental refunds that some have already been promised when they have complained.

This is becoming an annual event.

Fri 22/08 23:00

I have just received a text that was sent some time after 2 pm.  The signal is back. I hope for good.

Mon 25/08 14:30

The signal lasted the weekend, butl was lost again for about half an hour.  Maybe all is not back to normal yet.

Wed 27/08 09:00

The service isn't back to normal yet, unless the new normal is patchy with long periods of outage.  The signal disappeared yesterday morning sometime and it still hasn't reappeared  For whatever reason, EE/Orange seems incapable of delivering a reliable service.

Mon 15 Sep 11:30

We now have a new report that it could be another month before the signal is restored.  At the same time it is being said that restoration depends on a new (presumably not only visible, but improved) mast being installed.  As usual it is unwise to give 100% credence to anything an Orange/EE representative says as there have been conflicting explanations in the past.

The media are currently getting interested in this story and there may be developments in the near future - watch this space!

Tue 16 Sep 07:15

Simon Jenkins from BBC Radio Sussex is here in Lamberts Yard interviewing us about the problem.  Let's hope the publicity helps.  A TV crew from BBC South Today are due later.

Thu 9 Oct

Article entitled No mobile signal for eight weeks appears on page 5 of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer along with an article in 'Comment' entitled Mobile Signal is not bright, in an ironic reference to the company's advertising slogan. understands that local MP, Andrew Tyrie has now been informed of the problem.

Mon 20th Oct 07:30

Frances Russell spoke on the BBC Sussex 'Sussex Breakfast' programme, again, telling listeners how nothing had changed and that she was getting 'absolutely nowhere' trying to get information from Orange /EE.  The BBC explained how they too had great problems with feedback from Orange; the latest press officer they had spoken to was completely unaware of the previous discussions.

Wed 22nd Oct a.m.

BBC South Today paid a second visit to Cocking.  They interviewed Richard Marks, Frances Russell and Nick Birch.  On air they announced that OFCOM, the regulator, had agreed to mount an enquiry into the village's loss of signal.

Tue 28th Oct p.m.

Tue 28th October

EE post an article on their Community Site, blaming the problem on 'numerous technical issues' and also trees slowly growing to block the line of sight between local masts.

Full post:

And in the afternoon of same day:

There appeared to be a signal that was strong enough to make calls!  South Today referred to Cocking's major problems and OFCOM's involvement when reporting intermittent signal problems on the Isle of Wight.

Cocking Remembers

Written by The Editor on .

The Fallen

In a series of events over the weekend of 2nd to 3rd August, the village of Cocking marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War (1914-1918).

Biographies of servicemen lost during the conflict can be found in the August edition of the Cocking Parish Newsletter that has been delivered to each household in the village and a set of images, taken over the weekend by Jeff Mableson, can be found under the Gallery menu item above or you can link to it here.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Mableson

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