London

Westminster council opposed to 'advertising junk' phone boxes

Proposed new [hone boxes Image copyright Westminster Council
Image caption Westminster Council believes the primary purpose of the telephone boxes will be to create advertising space

Councillors fear they will be powerless to stop 80 new phone boxes being installed across central London.

Telecoms firm Maximus Networks wants to place phone boxes on Oxford Street, Victoria Street and Baker Street.

But Westminster Council believes the real purpose of the application is to create advertising space.

It now wants the law changed to offer more power to prevent boxes being installed. Maximus Networks has not responded to requests for comment.

Councils currently have limited powers to prevent phone boxes being built, particularly on sites where they once stood.

A company seeking to install a phone box must apply for a licence from telecom regulator Ofcom.

If granted, the licence offers permitted development rights and means conventional planning permission is not required.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The proposed telephone boxes will look somewhat different from the iconic red phone box

Each of the Maximus Networks boxes would provide 1.3m x 2m of advertising space and would not need local authority consent.

Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning and public realm at Westminster Council, told BBC London: "The whole thing is utterly bonkers.

"They have plans [to install phone boxes] at Covent Garden, the Strand, Buckingham Palace Road. It's utterly preposterous."

Mr Astaire called for Ofcom to review why it had given the licence to the company at all.

He said Maximus Networks was "only established in December 2015" and "has never filed accounts" with Companies House.

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