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The independent London newspaper

‘Horrible tsunami’ of phone boxes planned

Communications firm wants to bring dozens of pavement kiosks, which are just under three metres tall, to Islington streets

18 June, 2018 — By Emily Finch

David Trillo, of The Islington Society, with one of the phone boxes

A COMMUNICATIONS firm is looking to install dozens of pavement phone boxes in Islington despite being refused planning permission for 53 similar boxes last year.

Town Hall planners allowed only 10 BT phone kiosks to go up last year despite the wave of applications.

The LinkUK kiosks, with touch screens and keypads, provide free UK landline and mobile phone calls and wifi. They also feature three cameras which BT says are currently switched off and not recording.

LinkUK is a partnership involving BT, “urban innovation company” Intersection and advertising firm Primesight. The project is backed by technology firm Google.

The monoliths, which are just under three metres tall, feature illuminated LCD screens on both sides which are used for advertising. Some have been fitted in prime locations, including outside Angel and Finsbury Park stations.

Members of The Islington Society have fiercely opposed planning applications for the phone boxes for the past two years.

David Trillo, secretary to the heritage society, said the second wave of applications was a “horrible tsunami”.

“They are so arrogant thinking they have a right to do this,” he said. “Most people don’t need phone capabilities in a phone box any more. But every one of the applications being put up just has loads of advertising space.”

He added: “Using telephone boxes to make phone calls is becoming history. Why would any company be investing in large numbers of new public telephone boxes?”

BT has promised to remove two existing old payphones in exchange for the installation of one InLink box.

In a planning application submitted to the council last month, BT said: “So far, we have given back pavement space to communities equivalent to installing more than 80 street trees, 280 litter bins or 170 bicycle parks.”

A spokesman for BT said: “The cameras inside the InLinks are off and we have no plans to change this. We provide this information plus other facts on the InLinks from BT units to all local communities.  We take the security and privacy of our users and the community seriously and provide full information on what limited information we collect in our privacy notice available on our website.

“BT, together with its partner InLinkUK, has submitted a further five planning applications to install InLinks, the ultramodern digital street units offering the new service, across Islington.

“Currently in Islington we have nine InLinks live serving the community and bringing essential free digital services to the residents and businesses of the borough.

“Since launching in June 2017, over 100,000 people have signed up to use the fastest free public Wi-Fi available.  Over 587,000 free phone calls have been made from the InLinks, which have saved the public over £352,000.

 “We are extremely proud of the InLinks and the services they offer, now in eight London boroughs, Leeds and recently launched Glasgow.  We are continuing to rollout the InLinks across the UK in collaboration with the Councils and community, to bring digital services for the 21st century to their streets.”

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