Leeds Civic Trust chiefs say since March this year Leeds City Council has received 73 applications for new phone boxes in the city centre, with a further 75 applications expected in the near future.
There are 32 phone boxes on just four Leeds city centre streets – Briggate, The Headrow, Boar Lane and Albion Street – with another 31 planned.
Because telephone boxes are covered by ‘permitted development’ rights they do not have to go through the full planning process and local authority’s have few powers to stop their installation whether or not they are needed.
Leeds Civic Trust believes the law needs changing to stop companies installing telephone boxes when their primary purpose is to advertise goods and services.
Martin Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust said “There is no doubt that telephone boxes provide a useful service. However, If all of these applications are successful, we may well be in a position that the city centre has more phone boxes than before the mobile phone was invented. E.T. would not have a problem phoning home from Leeds.
“These ‘advertising boxes’ – to give them a more accurate description – risk cluttering up some of our most iconic streetscapes – such as Briggate and the Headrow, as well as providing physical barriers for the elderly and disabled, and cheapening our city centre with their shabby designs into the bargain. Mr Hamilton added: “We will be joining with Leeds City Council in writing to the government for a change in the law. The current situation is simply unacceptable.”
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman, said: “A number of individual Core Cities, including Leeds, have either written to or are proposing to write to Government but are awaiting the appointment of the new Planning Minister.
“Collectively, the Core Cities planning leads have also agreed to raise the issue with the Government’s Chief Planner. We will share the Leeds Civic Trust’s views as part of those discussions.”