The cases we previously opposed on dubious projects to litter the street with huge advertising hoardings, using a planning loophole to claim they are “much needed” new payphones, are still ongoing as the developers have appealed the Council’s decision to refuse permission – and the cases are still with the planning inspectorate. Hopefully they’ll agree with the views of residents rather than those attempting to clutter the streets and block important sight lines at road junctions…
In the meantime there have been some developments by other payphone operators. BT has been working with Wandsworth in a rather more cooperative way, and have removed many of the old payphones, replacing them with a smaller number of ‘InLink’ kiosks. These are primarily designed as digital adverts, but their placing has been rather more carefully considered to be safe and fit in to the immediate environment, and they do offer free Wi-fi, a screen with a somewhat unstable local information service, and free calls.
It took a while for them to get up and running (and one unfortunate installation on Falcon Road got tagged days before it was even turned on) but our photo at bottom left below – note the headphones plugged in – suggests that these do work.
These haven’t been entirely trouble free where they have been installed elsewhere, partly as the free internet access in the early versions was free of any ‘parental controls’ (see this New York Times article, reporting that “they have also attracted people who linger for hours, sometimes drinking and doing drugs and, at times, boldly watching pornography on the sidewalks“), but here there don’t seem to be any major issues here yet.
Rival operator New World (also reputable & long-established) has taken a slightly different tack, have been replacing their existing payphones with new ones that have a digital advertising screen, and planting a certain number of trees per payphone replaced.
To their credit, they seek planning permission for the changes in the proper manner, the new kiosks are reasonably similar to the old ones, and we have indeed found some of the trees planted – the image below shows a new tree on Gowrie Road with a ‘New World Payphones’ stake, which we believe is linked to a payphone replacement at the eastern end of Lavender Hill.
These two examples suggest that (a) there is already a perfectly healthy and competitive local payphone market, with no need for added provision, and (b) as these more respectful operators have shown, there are better ways to go about upgrading payphone services and securing long term advertising revenue, than trying to run roughshod over residents’ concerns by using planning loopholes to force giant ‘kiosks’ on every street corner.