A BROADBAND company has won a battle to access grass verges in County Durham after securing a £1 out of court settlement.

Virgin Media issued legal proceedings against Durham County Council earlier this year because it said the authority was charging a “hefty” per metre levy to access its grass verges.

It launched the case, thought to be the first of its kind, to test the reforms in the updated Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which were designed to speed up the rollout of broadband and mobile network upgrades.

But the company says it has now reached a deal so it will pay £1 for land access to the areas under dispute.

Tom Mockridge, chief executive of Virgin Media, said: “This agreement with Durham sets a much needed precedent which will speed up broadband rollout and encourage investment.

“We hope that other local authorities and landowners now follow Durham’s example.

“Most importantly, this is fantastic news for the residents and businesses of Durham as we can now continue the good work we started with Durham Country Council and bring a real broadband boost to local communities across the county.”

Virgin needs access to verges to allow it to lay fibre optic cables.

Stuart Timmiss, the councils head of planning, said: “Following the reforms it was important that, as a local authority, we were able to test and understand the implications of the new code.

“Working closely with Virgin Media and our legal team we are happy to be able to move forward in ensuring our businesses and communities can benefit from superfast broadband.”

As a result of the agreement, the company is planning to expand its network rollout across the county, including in Bishop Auckland and Consett.

The agreement was brokered ahead of the case being heard by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

Virgin declined to say how much it was being charged by the council prior to the agreement.