London boroughs urge government to revisit kiosk permitted rights

Two central London boroughs have renewed calls for the government to review permitted development rights for telephone kiosks that they say are leading to a plethora of unsightly advertising.

One of the new-style phone kiosks cropping up across London
One of the new-style phone kiosks cropping up across London

This week Danny Beales, Camden Council’s cabinet member for investing in communities, wrote to planning minister Kit Malthouse complaining that planning law is being exploited by telecoms companies to create lucrative advertising space in the guise of phone boxes.

Beales said that Camden has received prior approval applications for 170 new phone boxes in the last two years and has been obliged to approve 30 of them because of the limited grounds on which councils can reject them under the General Permitted Development Order 2015. Others are getting through on appeal after initial rejection, he added. 

"I’ve written to the government to seek national change in order to tackle this issue. In the modern age, phone boxes have become somewhat redundant. We certainly don’t need the amount of them that we are receiving applications for," said Beales.

"Camden’s residents don’t want this unwelcome street clutter, nor the antisocial behaviour issues that are often linked to unused telephone boxes. Our local planning system is under significant pressure and could do without this level of demand for infrastructure that the borough doesn’t require."

Last week, Westminster City Council cabinet member for planning Richard Beddoe called on the government to give local planning authorities more powers to reject new kiosks after the the council received a batch of 99 prior approval applications from BT for kiosks incorporating advertising screens.

"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," Beddoe complained.

The council reported that, over the past two years, it has rejected 170 applications for new telephone kiosks which it believes serve little purpose beyond creating advertising space in high-profile locations like Oxford Street, Victoria Street, Edgware Road and Baker Street. If all the applications had been approved, it said, there would be one phone box every 15 metres along Edgware Road.

In April, the head of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) said that the "unexpected receipt" of more than 1,000 phone kiosk prior approval appeals was a key factor behind delays in processing appeals. 

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