Westminster City Council has welcomed a proposal to hand local authorities long-sought powers to limit the numbers of phone boxes popping up around Britain.
Councils nationwide have complained that the modern kiosks popping on pavements alongside Britain’s iconic red phone boxes are advertising hoardings posing as call boxes.
However the telecoms companies setting them up say they are providing a public service by removing ageing phone boxes off the streets, with some replacing them with interactive display kiosks that include services like free WiFi.
Westminster City Council has been lobbying for more control over its pavements after fielding applications for 300 phone boxes in the space of two years, which its planning chief has likened to a game of “whack-a-mole”.
The central London borough, which already has more than 1,000 phone boxes, claims the kiosks represent an advertising space grab in high profile locations like Oxford Street, Victoria Street and Baker Street.
If the council had approved every application for Edgware Rd there would be one phone box every 15 metres, it said.
The kiosks have flourished because ageing legislation that promoted public access to calling services, has meant local authorities presently only have the power to consider whether to grant the sites requested, and whether they can feature advertising.
But Westminster, which has in the past taken its fight over kiosk applications to the courts, says the planning reform proposals unveiled this week will give them the chance to rule just how many of the kiosks its streets need.
Its planning chief Councillor Edward Beddoe said the government was giving Westminster a chance to take back “control of our pavements.”
The proposal from the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government said the need for public call boxes had been shrinking for some time due to the rise of mobile phone technology.
It is open to public consultation until January 2019.