Plans to replace Peterborough phone box with new BT ‘Street Hub’ rejected over harm to street scene concerns

The proposed street scene on Westgate with the BT Street Hub.The proposed street scene on Westgate with the BT Street Hub.
The proposed street scene on Westgate with the BT Street Hub.
Plans to replace an existing BT phone box with one of the company’s new Street Hubs have been rejected due to concerns about the damage to the street scene.

Given that phone boxes have become largely obsolete due to the development of technology, the telecommunications giant has partnered with InLinkUK to create new street hubs; the 21st century’s answer to the phone box.

The hubs themselves are an advancement of previous InlinkHubs were implemented in some cities across the UK. They are shaped like digital advertising boards but have an interactive touch screen that can give out public information and connect to the internet etc.

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The new BT Street Hubs have pushed the technology on and now include ultrafast WiFi, free public calls, public information, with a better Wi-Fi range, environmental monitoring, secure power-only USB ports for rapid device charging and an expanded phone network coverage with 5G mobile enablement.

The current sreet view on Westgate.The current sreet view on Westgate.
The current sreet view on Westgate.

They also have the capacity to boost local 4G and 5G signal and are powered by 100 percent renewable carbon-free energy.

In terms of maintenance, the units are monitored 24/7, with weekly inspections and a minimum bi-weekly cleaning service to keep the unit to a high standard of finish within the existing street scene. They are also fitted with a direct 999 call button.

Proposals were put forward for such a unit to replace the existing phone box next to Worthley Almhouses on Westgate and close to the taxi rank and bus station.

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The application is one of a number of applications for Street Hubs to be placed in Peterborough, a plan that has received multiple objections.

Peterborough City Council’s Conservation Office objected to the plan stating that while approval was given for the removal of the existing phone box, it had “considered that the development will have an adverse impact on the setting and significance of the Grade II listed Wortley Almshouses and locally listed Westgate Church and form an unnecessary proliferation of adverts and visual barrier within the street scene.”

The Peterborough Civic Society supported the office’s assertions, calling the hubs “of excessive height” and representing “excessive street clutter and distracting digital images to the detriment of the City Centre Conservation Area.” It also pointed out that the hubs providing internet access is not necessary as there is already free public Wi-Fi in the city centre.

In making the final decision, planning officers agreed with the objections and rejected the plans.

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The decision stated: “The proposed street hub, by virtue of its siting, size and design, would result in harm to the setting of the adjacent Listed Building and the character of the Park Conservation Area and street scene. The development would appear an unduly obtrusive and dominant feature, contributing to the unnecessary proliferation of street furniture within the locality.

“The harm arising to designated heritage assets should be afforded great weight and would not be outweighed by the limited public benefit of the hub and its features. Therefore, the development is considered to be contrary to Policies LP16 and LP19 of the Peterborough Local Plan (2019) and paragraphs 197, 199 and 202 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2021).

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