A project to bring ultrafast broadband to a Northumberland village has been slammed for failing to connect a single property in three years.

In January 2021, FACTCO was awarded the contract to develop an ultrafast network in Stocksfield as part of the Government’s Project Gigabit scheme. However, since the contract was awarded, villagers have had to suffer from numerous delays as well as repeated disruption due to ongoing roadworks.

A spokeswoman for FACTCO admitted there had been “hurdles” for the project but insisted it was close to completing work that would allow up to 700 connections in the near future.

However, resident Tim Hills remains unconvinced. He had previously signed up for a FACTCO connection, but now says he wouldn’t even accept it for free.

Mr Hills said: “The full fibre project was great on the face of it. Some local residents really struggle with internet speed so there was much excitement when it was announced.

“No one here is connected yet and the project hits its third anniversary this month. The deadlines have moved continuously and the excuses have been many and varied.

“Every road has been dug up, many several times. The roadworks have been endless. It is a mess.”

When the project was first announced, the original timescale said properties would be connected in August and September 2021. However, this did not happen.

In September 2022 – a year after the original date for the first connections – FACTCO claimed that the network would “go live” that same year, and that it was “looking forward” to connecting 1,750 homes in Stocksfield. However, more than a year later and the first connections to homes and businesses are yet to be made.

Mr Hills added that the project “continues with the pace of an arthritic snail climbing a hill”.

Responding to those concerns, a spokeswoman for FACTCO said: “In 2023, FACTCO made considerable progress in providing Stocksfield with full fibre broadband.

“Although it’s fair to say we’ve come across a number of unexpected hurdles, which have prolonged the build more than we wanted, we are currently forecasting that close to 700 premises will be ready for service imminently once the backhaul is connected.

“Our largest network build to date has certainly not been without its challenges, however, we remain fully committed to delivering a state-of-the-art, full fibre network which will serve over 1,700 homes and businesses for generations to come.”

The Government has confirmed that it is working with FACTCO to resolve issues.

A spokesman for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “We are aware of delays to the rollout of a gigabit broadband voucher project in Stocksfield and the surrounding areas and we are working with the supplier, FACTCO, to help resolve these issues.

“FACTCO has also submitted a change request to increase the voucher project scope which is subject to review. The supplier will only receive funding once connections are live and residents and businesses confirm that they have received and are content with the new service.”