Permitted development rights for phone boxes could be scrapped

BUDGET 2018: Councils could be given powers to control the rising numbers of phone boxes being installed on city streets, according to plans floated alongside yesterday's Autumn Budget statement.

Kiosks: consultation moots PD right removal
Kiosks: consultation moots PD right removal

The government is consulting on the removal of permitted development rights for phone boxes to allow "greater consideration of their impact on local amenity". Advertising on new phone boxes would also be subject to planning approval, the government said.

The proposals are included in a consultation paper issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government yesterday setting out a package of proposed changes intended to support high streets and housing delivery. The consutation runs until 14 January.

The document says that councils "are seeing an increase in the number of prior approval applications for additional public call boxes in city centres, with a subsequent increase in the number of appeals coming before the Planning Inspectorate".

According to the document, the changes would apply to any public call box, shelter or similar structure erected or installed for the purpose of housing or supporting electronic communications apparatus and at which an electronic communications service is provided, or is to be provided, by an Electronic Communications Code operator.

The announcement comes amid rising concern that phone boxes are being used as a "Trojan horse" to install advertising on city streets without the need for full planning permission.

A Local Government Association study published earlier this year found the number of prior approval applications for phone boxes had risen by 927 per cent between 2015 and 2017.

According to the study, Westminster City Council received 180 such applications in 2017, compared with 13 in 2015.

The rising number of prior approval applications involving phone boxes has placed an unexpected burden on the planning service. In April, the Planning Inspectorate cited receipt of more than 1,000 prior approval cases involving phone kiosks as a key factor in delays processing appeals.

The Local Government Association (LGA) and Transport for London (TfL) have previously called for permitted development rights for phone kiosks to be scrapped.

In July, TfL published a report which described kiosks as a "source of clutter that obstruct footways and are often unsightly due to flyposters, graffiti and vandalism".

Camden and Westminster Councils both recently renewed calls for permitted development rights for phone boxes to be scrapped.

Daniel Astaire, former cabinet member for planning and public realm at Westminster City Council, described the move to scrap permitted development rights as a "major result".

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