Westminster council calls for greater powers to reject new phone kiosk applications

News that a London council is calling for greater powers to reject new phone boxes across London features in today's newspaper round-up.

The Times (subscription required) reports that Westminster City Council has called for greater powers following the receipt of applications for 99 new phone kiosk installations from operator BT. In the past two years the council has rejected 170 applications for new telephone kiosks, the paper says, which "the authority believes serve little purpose beyond creating advertising space in high-profile locations like Oxford Street, Victoria Street, Edgware Road and Baker Street". The council’s cabinet member for planning Richard Beddoe says in the story that "arcane planning rules" have left the council "playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole with the phone boxes popping up across the city."

The UK high street posted its worst August performance for three years in further evidence of the pressure on traditional retailers, the Guardian reports. The paper reports that underlying sales at physical stores slid 2.7 per cent last month compared with August 2017, with homewares and fashion taking the biggest hit, according to data from consultants BDO. In contrast, there was a 13.7 per cent rise in online sales in August, according to the figures.

Narrow country roads are becoming harder to navigate due to the increasing width of modern cars, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph. The report says the UK’s best selling cars are getting broader and have increased in width by 17 per cent over the last 20 years, citing research by insurance company Direct Line. The average width of modern popular cars - such as the Ford Focus, Mini Cooper, Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500 - is 1.94m compared with 1.66m, the average width of the most popular cars in 1998, according to the study.

The chief executive of retailer Sainsbury's has called for tax reform to ease the burden of business rates, according to the FT. Mike Coupe said the bricks and mortar retail sector "pays a disproportionate amount of tax, several orders of magnitude higher than our online competitors". The paper also reports that criticism of the iniquities of business rates has featured in almost all of the 78 written submissions to the parliamentary committee examining the future of Britain’s high streets. 

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