Camden Council calls time on redundant phone boxes

Camden Council has successfully used its planning enforcement powers to require the removal of 19 redundant phone kiosks on Tottenham Court Road. The Council served breach of condition notices requiring their removal in February this year.

With the growth in mobile phone ownership, use of public telephone kiosks has declined. Seldom used, many are now largely redundant with low call numbers - an average of only 4.8 calls a month per kiosk, and in a poor condition which often attracts vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

The Council’s view is that where the kiosks are no longer required for their intended telecommunication purpose they should be removed, overcoming these issues and giving back public realm to pedestrians.   

Councillor Danny Beales, Cabinet Member for New Homes, Jobs and Community Investment

Tottenham Court Road is just over a kilometre long, but there were previously 32 phone kiosks located on it, some of them being poorly maintained or not working at all.

These detracted from the good work that had been done following the major transformation of the area through the West End Project, and we were not willing to stand by and allow our streets to be blighted by street clutter serving no purpose. 

As a result of our tough action the phone providers have removed these phone kiosks. This is just the start of cleaning up the clutter from our streets. I hope this will further encourage other providers to step up and remove redundant kiosks across the borough, which now represent little more than advertising billboards and magnets for anti-social behaviour.

Councillor Danny Beales, Cabinet Member for New Homes, Jobs and Community Investment

The phone kiosks were originally installed by phone operators under permitted development rights, granted by the government to allow for the installation of telecommunications equipment at a time when mobile phones were not in common use.

Those permitted development rights were granted subject to the condition that phone kiosks and equipment should be removed if they are no longer required for telecommunication purposes.

Councillor Beales continued:

“The number of kiosks which exist on our streets are simply not needed for the purpose they were installed. Despite our best efforts to work with the phone providers to seek removal of some of them, there had been a lack of positive action on their part, and instead they sought planning and advertisement consent to replace kiosks with digital advertising structures with phone capabilities. 

“Times have changed, there is less demand for phone boxes and more demand for space for pedestrians. Removal of unused poorly maintained boxes will allow us to address this.

“Whilst we often lack all the powers, we have been addressing this issue and have also asked for greater national changes to enable councils to act.”

Despite this positive outcome the council have achieved it has involved considerable amount of work and it firmly believes that local authorities should be given more power to act in these instances.

Camden has successfully secured the removal of kiosks with the help of the Fitzrovia Partnership. The Council has received complaints about other kiosks across Camden and will now be looking for operators to remove any kiosks from all parts of the borough which are no longer required for telecommunication purposes.

  • There are still 13 operational kiosks on Tottenham Court Road. This is sufficient to ensure that the public have convenient access to public phones.