A FIRST-of-its-kind trial to deliver high-speed broadband in Barnsley through the use of water pipes has been welcomed by MP Miriam Cates - who lobbied the government to fund the multi-million pound project.

The new proposals to accelerate the rollout of broadband without digging up roads will see fibre-optic cables placed through 17km of drinking water mains between Barnsley and Penistone.

Around 8,500 homes and businesses could then gain better access to the internet, if broadband companies tap into the network and deem the scheme feasible.

The ‘Fibre in Water’ scheme will show what could be a a greener and quicker way of connecting fibre optic cables to homes without the disruption caused by roadworks.

The network will also be used to set up 5G masts with the aim of bringing fast and reliable wireless broadband to the most hard-to-reach communities across the borough.

Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, has praised the ‘cost effective’ scheme, welcoming the announcement of £3.2m in government funding to kickstart it.

She told the Chronicle: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our local area to lead the UK in trialling innovative new technology, whilst also offering significant benefits to residents and businesses in Penistone and the surrounding villages.

“Improving broadband connectivity is a key part of levelling up our area and delivering more opportunities for local people.

“A number of constituents have raised the problems they’ve been having getting a reliable connection, and this project should be a big step forward in helping to address that.

“I wrote to the Minister in February to make the case for Yorkshire Water’s Penistone bid, and I’m delighted that our area has been selected by the Government as the site for this trial.”

The first phase of the revolutionary project officially launched last month - and it focused on the safety aspects, ensuring that combining clean drinking water and telecoms services is safe.

The technology that is being used has already been approved by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and has previously been deployed in other countries such as Spain, with the scheme working successfully.

Around a fifth of all water put into public supply every year is wasted due to leaks in the UK - but with the current technology, the exact location of the leak is particularly hard to find.

The project, led by Yorkshire Water in partnership with Arcadis and the University of Strathclyde, will test solutions that reduce water leaks by placing sensors in the pipes.

Sam Bright, innovation programme manager at Yorkshire Water, added: “The technology for fibre in water has significantly progressed in recent years and this project will now enable us to fully develop its potential to help improve access to better broadband in hard-to-reach areas and further reduce leakage on our networks.”