Council Quits New Offices Because Overhead Aircraft Affect Their Computers

Council offices at Porthmellon

Council offices at Porthmellon

Council staff are being moved out of their new £100,000 offices because overhead planes are disrupting their computers.

Economic Development and IFCA staff have been told they’ll be moved to the former Lifelong Learning Offices at Carn Thomas or the Old Wesleyan Chapel.

The relocation from the recently refurbished Porthmellon premises forms part of the overall Council reorganisation.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin says the industrial estate building is underneath the flight path. That affects IT equipment, she says, and makes it a poor choice for a Council building.

Amanda says relocation of the workforce will improve efficiency and allow staff to regroup in fewer buildings.

The former Home Hardware Garden Centre has been a costly purchase for the Council.

They bought it for £100,000 in 2009 and spent £30,000 on refurbishment. It was valued two years later at £115,000.

The purchase was agreed without formal valuation and was made as an urgent acquisition, signed off by a handful of members.

Some locals objected. The Council’s auditors found nothing unlawful in the purchase of the unit from the former Council Chairman’s husband, but the auditors’ investigation, which also tackled complaints about Chief Officers’ pay rises, racked up a further £49,000 bill.

Amanda says the building will be let in the short term. There are no details on how islanders can tender for it at this stage and in the long term, the building’s future will be reviewed as part of the Council asset management strategy.

The vacated premises will be joined by additional office space on the industrial estate, soon.

Work is set to commence next month on a £1.5m Council scheme to transform the former wholesalers building into offices and workspaces for local businesses.

37 Responses to Council Quits New Offices Because Overhead Aircraft Affect Their Computers

  1. Old Local May 1, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Consideirng i actually work with the technology (Radio Ethernet – Long distance wifi for the layman) nearly all – apart from the cheap systems… are able to change their frequencies to remove problems like this. No cost involved, as they are free to use frequencies.

    Coincedently, my place of work is about the exact same difference as the council offices at Porthmellon to the threshold for the runway. And the amount of air traffic ranges from GA to large commercial – i would say 200+ landings a day going over our heads.

    We have a number of Radio Ethernet links to different establishments working on the 2.4ghz and 5ghz bandwidth. Not once in the time i have been here has the link been affected.

    Just some additional food for thought!

  2. Farmer boy May 1, 2014 at 12:07 am

    As someone who’s lived here all their life I’ve never known aircraft to use that approach to the airfield. It’s a flipping joke to be fair!

  3. Peter April 30, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Other contributors here have adequately torn to shreds the farcical technical explanations from the council of the reasons for this disgraceful waste of public money, so I needn’t add anything re that aspect. But let’s just re-read with amazement some parts of this news item:
    “The purchase was agreed without formal valuation and was made as an urgent acquisition, signed off by a handful of members”.
    “The Council’s auditors found nothing unlawful in the purchase of the unit from the former Council Chairman’s husband”.
    Think about the alleged leaking of confidential human resources information re the former headmaster. Think about the alleged cover-up over a long period of information about the release of toxins from the waste site adjacent to the old school. Think about the many other cock-ups by Scilly Council…
    As I keep asking, when, oh when, is central government going to act and close down Scilly Council and hand over powers to Cornwall County Council, so that the good people of Scilly get the proper administration of the islands that they deserve?

  4. Very concerned islander April 30, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Surely council logic on past form would be to move the airport,obviously after refurbishment.

    • Nobby Nobbs April 30, 2014 at 9:41 pm

      I wish there was a like button on here, because you just got liked by Nobby 🙂

  5. Jeremy Clarkson April 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Maybe Cllr Martin is just looking to get another mention on this week’s have i got news for you!

  6. Avid Spectator April 30, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Best laugh I’ve had in ages!!! ???????????? ????????????

  7. Jenny. April 30, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I doubt very much the majority of the Councillors wanted to purchase the building in the first place. That may be the reason the previous CEO rushed the purchase through, without am independent evaluation or best value assessment. There was no emergency which necessitated the very urgent purchase without these checks, which ensures the tax payer receives good value for money. Once bought, the building needed to be used and now it seems there is no longer any use for it.I would guess that our present Councillors do not want to see the additional cost of running another satellite council office. The Chairman of the Council referred to council offices springing up like topsie. Now the staff and equipment will be relocated, at more expense. The vacated office is to be rented out in direct competition to a grant funded, newly built, swish office complex adjacent to it. I just hope someone has checked that the spanking new offices are not under the plane’s flight path.

  8. Vaughan Ashby April 30, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I have low-flying military helicopters regularly over my house in Dorset, often at only around 100ft and it doesn’t affect any of my WiFi cordless phones or mobile signals. If it is affecting their WiFi computers then it’s a problem in the way that they are set up not with the aircraft the radio frequencies of which are very different. Hiring a top IT guy for a day is a lot cheaper than relocating!

    • Reg Thomas April 30, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      I agree with you Vaughan, it may cost a couple of grand but definitely much smarter than the suggested route. Someone needs to challenge personally the brilliant person or persons who are making that decision, they certainly should not be representing the islanders. Is there no accountability for those in office.

      • LINDY April 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm


  9. Sexy Rexy April 30, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but why is such an important bank of computers relying on a ‘wireless’ connection? Has anyone tried plugging in a ‘Router?’

  10. IT 2.0 April 30, 2014 at 12:48 am

    The council need to define the word ‘computers’ in terms of what this problem actually is. I would assume that they are talking about how the PC’s interact with one another, other devices, servers, the internet etc… As opposed to the computers having a mini meltdown whenever a twin otter makes an overhead pass (for whatever reason that deviates them from a given flight path).

    I’m not sure where the line of sight is for their wireless equipment down the industrial estate but I would assume it’s the flashy box thing on top of the DLF shed down at moorwell, or it’s on the fire brigade tower. This wireless box seems to point towards Carn Thomas where a receiving antenna is based which then transmits a signal back to the town hall from an antenna on the opposite side of the building (the airport also reports back to base this same way). So if that is the case, then a plane will certaintly not affect the radio signals from working correctly! If there is a problem, and this indeed isn’t some elaborate ruse to confuse and deter the tax payers from the real reason for relocating, then the problem clearly lies somewhere else. If so, please refer to Nobby Nobb’s list of trouble shooting steps and well founded theories on wireless technologies.

  11. Rob anybody April 29, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    So how do the computers in the airport control tower manage with all those planes just metres away?

    • Ian T. April 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

      Precisely..! There must be thousands of computers under flight paths to major airports and I’m not convinced that Porthmellon is under the flight path anyway. I don’t remember ever coming in in that precise direction. It’s just another ‘old wives tale’ associated with modern technology me thinks…!

  12. Nobby Nobbs April 29, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    And the council wonders why the local tax payer holds them in such contempt.
    I would question the factuality of this claim and I hope the auditors will as well.
    Surely if the councils computers are affected then so will the Fire and Ambulance services who both have their bases opposite the council offices in question, not to mention the local businesses, Nike Engineering, Richard Hand Haulage, the Steamship co, plus all the small traders in the arts and farts building, and finally Radio Scilly who are based 50yds away.
    I think this is some lame arsed excuse because the council want to relocate to different premises for whatever reason, but had to come up with a reason to justify the outrageous expense this building has been to the tax payer.

    Perhaps a FOI request to the council asking them ‘exactly’ how their computers are being affected and what independent advice they have taken to verify this situation can’t be resolved (if it actually exists, which I strongly doubt) through technical means, ie: shielding.
    As to being on the flight path, I’m not sure that planes do fly directly overhead, looking at the location of the council offices and then the runways on Google Earth, I would say the flight path is NOT directly overhead.

    I sometimes wonder if Keri and Andy just make these story’s up to annoy me, but then it is the council, so I suppose anything is possible

    • Nimis non est satis April 29, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      I’ve stood 12m away from 4 jet engines on an A 380 at max tpr ( thrust) on the ground and used mobile phones (text) and a laptop without an issue – perhaps sky bus should br investigated for electromagnetic interference?

  13. David Harris April 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    This must be an April fools gag! Nothing on the planes should have any effect on the computers.

  14. AlexF April 29, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Or perhaps this is the only PC (sic) excuse rather than confess “We don’t like the noise”? 20 years in IT and yes, if kit was next to massive induction motors there would be problems but underneath aircraft?? I think not…

  15. LINDY April 29, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Does the Council of the Isles of Scilly truly believe us mortals have marshmallows for brains. This sounds fishy to me.

  16. IT April 29, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I can only assume that because the office is connected wirelessly and ‘hops’ between other council sites and finally on to the town hall, that somehow there is interference from the planes causing these systems to momentarily go offline. Or the planes themselves block out the signal when coming into land and on take off. But it is a first for me to hear of these kind of issues, and surely all planes will have suppressors on the ignition circuit that minimises electrical interference with other devices. On the same note though, the airport itself has been wirelessly linked to Carn Thomas through line of sight for well over 5 years and this has never had problems that I can recall…

    • Nobby Nobbs April 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      I wondered that at first, but then a view on Google earth would suggest that the flight path is to one side of the radio ‘line of sight’ and then I thought even if that were the case, it would be cheaper to rent a private wire in the BT network between council buildings or even provide their own wire in their own duct (for which they received a grant a few years back) than it would to relocate, but what do I know of such things 🙂
      Yours sincerely

      • Nobby Nobbs April 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm

        I’m no expert but…….
        Thinking about this some more, the radio hop is from the ATC tower ‘down’ to the council office at Porthloo, so in effect the link is pointing down into the industrial estate and is not much more than 30ft off the ground at any one point, so the only way a plane could interfere with the ‘line of sight’ is if it flew directly into the ATC tower or skimmed the industrial estate on a regular basis.

        There can be problems with radio links over land (more commonly over water) where passing objects can ‘reflect’ the signal or the radio signal degrades due to atmospheric conditions, but if one has purchased a decent radio system this is compensated for with additional channels that switch in and out as required, but seeing as this particular link is over land and is only over a distance of around 500m, fade and reflection should not be a problem, if it is and I strongly doubt it, then a better radio system might be a cheaper option than a costly relocation. besides if planes are interfering with this radio link, one might ask why the BT radio link that connects the islands to the mainland is not affected by planes constantly flying through the signal, but again what do I know of such things.

        I really would like to see some hard evidence on the part of the council detailing….
        A. the problem’s being experienced
        B. exactly how this has been attributed to the passage of planes
        C. what technical solutions have been tried to overcome this supposed problem
        D. the cost/ratio of relocation to technical solution ie: better radio (if that is the problem) vs a Private wired connection either through the BT network or council network or sewage network
        E. if the problem is not with the radio link, then lining the loft or roof with a reflective material
        F. providing better electrical grounding for the computer equipment
        G. Have any of the above been tried?
        H. Are the council just making it up as they go along?

        • Nnes April 29, 2014 at 10:21 pm

          U r sounding like a bt man in the know

        • LINDY April 30, 2014 at 8:49 am

          RE:H. YES

  17. Reg Thomas April 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Not sure what kind of gremlins you have on Scilly, but i have computers in my house and a few minutes away at my business which all reside in the flight path of one of the busiest airports in the USA, Dallas / Fort Worth and we do not experience any issues, never heard of that

    • Nobby Nobbs April 29, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      That would be…….because it doesn’t exist!

  18. Jonny Exile April 29, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks Andy. There’s something extremely odd about this. Skybus come over my house when they’re using runway 09 for arrivals and I’ve never had even an inkling of a problem.

  19. Traveller April 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    How ancient are the computers? Where I worked was under the final run into East Midlands airport and aircraft were bigger and more frequent. Never a blink on our PCs!!
    What do the Islands computer experts say?

    • Nnes April 29, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Keg worth or donno?

  20. sarah April 29, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Well that was money well spent !

  21. Very concerned islander April 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Come on new councillors,show your inteligence and common sense,this can’t be right

  22. Jonny Exile April 29, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Let me ask …. Radio Scilly is almost next door to the Council offices concerned; is your IT equipment or internet access affected in any way by aircraft passing overhead?

    • Andy Hargreaves April 29, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Not really noticed anything Jonny. I’d be more worried that any planes flying over us would be a tad off-course for the runway!

  23. Peter M April 29, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Surely the computers of whoever moves into the former wholesalers will suffer the same fate. Have others on the site had the problem in the past? Is it only council computers that are affected?

  24. tina April 29, 2014 at 11:36 am

    So the council can’t work there because the flight path affects their computers but will build new offices practically next door for local businesses?? What about their computers, makes no sense to me!!

    • Nobby Nobbs April 29, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Tina, its the council, it doesn’t have to make sense!
      They just like spending other peoples money……badly!
      And then think we’re all to stupid to realise.