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Phone Kiosk Applications Hit Record Levels
Last month the Planning Inspectorate (“PINs”) issued a statement that one of the main reasons for recent delays in the handling of appeals was due to the number of prior approval appeals they had received for phone kiosks. According to PINs, the number of appeals has risen from 34 in 2015/16 to 1,221 in 2017/18. Local Planning Authorities (“LPAs”), particularly in cities, have also found that a significant amount of officer time is taken up dealing with prior approval applications.
In a country where most people carry mobile phones, and where BT has been busy removing its phone kiosks because of lack of demand, vandalism and the cost of maintaining them, it appears at first glance to be a strange phenomenon. However, the reason for the growth in the number of applications and appeals is simple. The kiosks raise revenue for the companies that provide them through advertising. The kiosks tend to be three-sided structures made of glass in which advertisements are then fixed.
The kiosk companies are not required to apply for full planning permission because phone kiosks are subject to deemed planning permission under Schedule 2, Part 16, Class A of the Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. The permitted development rights grant the companies a permission in principle (like an outline planning permission). The companies then only need to apply for prior approval to the LPA to confirm that the details are acceptable (like a reserved matters application). Provided the phone kiosk satisfies the criteria in the legislation the LPA can only refuse the prior approval application on the grounds of siting and appearance, rather than on the principle of the phone kiosk or the visual effect of the display of advertisements on the kiosks.
Many of the appeals that have been published so far have in fact been dismissed. One of the most common reasons for dismissing the appeal is that the proposed location of the phone kiosk will make the streetscene appear too cluttered because of the proximity to other street furniture such as bicycle racks.
Either the legislation granting permitted development rights will need to be amended, or LPAs and PINs will have to find more resources to deal with the sheer volume of applications and appeals.
The Local Government Association has called for these permitted development rights to be scrapped. Watch this space!
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