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Plans for 80 new phone boxes ‘totally unacceptable’

Westminster Council fears the new phone box scheme will create 'ugly advertising hoardings'

17 March, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

The new look phone box as proposed by Maximus Networks Ltd

A PLAN to install 80 new phone boxes across the borough has been slammed as nothing more than an advertising ploy.

The proposals – to put the boxes in roads including Oxford Street, Victoria Street and Baker Street – were branded “totally unacceptable” by the council’s planning chief, Daniel Astaire. Each phone box, which would not offer wifi or internet connectivity, would create 1.3m x 2m of advertising space, over which the council have limited control. Adverts can be placed on phone boxes without consent from the local authority.

Cllr Astaire, cabinet member for planning and public realm, said: “We think this scheme will create ugly advertising hoardings on some of our most iconic streets. Frankly, it’s totally unacceptable and we will do everything in our power to prevent the phones being installed.”

Patrick Lilley of the West End Labour Action Team said: “It’s a bizarre proposal. In this day and age, when more and more people use mobile phones, there needs to be a clear explanation as to why these new phone boxes are needed and who they expect will use them.

“The team has been pressing BT and the council to tackle this problem. This needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.”

Marylebone Association’s Tim Carnegie said: “Our existing telephone boxes attract a variety of activities unrelated to their primary purpose such as urination, drug dealing and carding advertising various sexual services.”

The Soho Society, the Covent Garden Community Association, and the Seven Dials Trust have also backed the council’s objections.

In their application, Maximus Networks Ltd said: “Although society has an increase in mobile phone usage, there is still a need for public call boxes in a variety of cases and across all sections of the community.”

They gave examples such as emergency calls and directory enquiries, and added: “A report from ChildLine showed that a significant number of calls by children are still made from public phone boxes.”

In design terms, they added: “The transparency of the Maximus kiosk will discourage any anti-social behaviour or criminal activity.”

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