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Row sparked by boroughs’ rejection of phone box

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A group of councils is locked in battle with BT after rejecting its new phone box design which features large illuminated advertising hoardings.

BT claims the rise of mobile phones means that traditional-style phone boxes are no longer financially viable. The communications giant which made a pre-tax profit of£2.5bn last year says that to fulfil its regulatory obligation to supply public phones it must subsidise them using advertising revenue.
Brent, Camden and Islington LBCs, Kensington & Chelsea RBC and Westminster City Council are among the boroughs that have rejected the design in London, where 250 applications for the new phone box have been submitted.

In Westminster, the French poster company JC Decaux, BT’s partner in the venture, appealed to the planning inspector against the council’s rejection of seven phones. The inspectorate sided with the council, agreeing it would be “harmful to the visual amenity”.

Caroline Sheridan, director of BT payphones, said: “This new design offers customers the benefit of continued access to a public payphone, while the six sheet advertising builds on our success in the outdoor advertising market and will generate new revenue for the payphones business.”

Among the councils to have approved the design is St Helens MBC whose highway asset manager John Sheward claimed the box was “a perfect fit” with the modernisation and revamping of the town’s retail district.

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