Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Primary Use

Back in January we reported the appearance of a strange green metal box on the footway of Barkingside High Street. That post and the subsequent comments were initially speculating on what on earth it could be, but we soon discovered that it was to be, and has since morphed into, a new style “public telephone” provided by British Telecom. Except that this one isn’t working yet – the telephone apparatus has not been installed. This is because the council have taken enforcement action for its removal along with another one down by the Eva Hart in Chadwell. That was 17th February as reported by Cllr Nick Hayes.

It’s still there, photographs taken today, 18th May 2010.

Recently Morris spotted another one, complete and presumably fully functional, in Cranbrook Road close to the junction with Beal Road. So on my next bus journey into Ilford Town Centre I sat upstairs at the front on look out. I counted nine in Cranbrook Road alone and more in the Town Centre itself. Some of them are located sensibly on wide pavements, like outside Faeces nightclub, outside Ilford Sainsburys and on the pedestrianised High Road. But others take up a considerable percentage of the footway, like the double back-to-back pair outside Broadway Chambers on what is a very busy footway and of course our own model here in Barkingside just along from a busy bus stop.

Now the thing is that British Telecom are, I believe, required as part of their operating licence to provide a certain number of public telephone points. The trouble is that hardly anybody uses them anymore, for the telephone part that is – mostly people have mobiles or one of those gooseberry thingies. So the cost of provision set against revenue is not very promising. Solution - let’s go into the advertising business.

It is clear that these structures are designed for advertising and that is their primary function. Were it not so, the structure would be positioned parallel to the kerb thereby minimising any obstruction to the freedom of movement of pedestrians and other footway users.

British Telecom has been given certain dispensations to do things in order to comply with their licence obligations but these are related to the provision of telephone access and not advertising. BT is now using those dispensations to operate a new business for which they were not intended. They are using public space and amenity for an unauthorised purpose and our Council should send them an invoice for that privilege.


  1. Hear, hear. Siting the FX phone near a public bench restricts the pavement at this point. Does anyone really want an audience when using a public telephone? And there is another public telephone across the road near Somerfield. So why plonk this monstrosity here? Simple. It is perfectly sited for casual reading by drivers waiting at the pedestrian crossing outside the library. This is an advertising ploy first and foremost, rather than a telephone booth. And it is in the way.

  2. The council's attempts to get these thing removed isn't going to well, judging by recent events in the vicinity of the other one in Chadwell Heath.

    I noticed the other day that the 'phone has now been removed from the old 'phone box - which wasn't (and still isn't) obstructing the footway.

    Last night, the obstruction had increased considerably as EDF have dug some trenches around it, presumably to provide it with power.

    Obviously the installation is being finalised, after a six month delay - and, no doubt, there will be a repeat trench digging exercise when BT connect it their network - so does this mean the council has lost the battle?

    Any change at the one in Barkingside recently?

  3. It's still there, I checked yesterday. Apparently they are to be "re-sited" which might explain what's going on down your way. The Chadwell one does seem to be slightly in advance of ours in terms of action!

  4. It does seem that the 'progress' at the Barkingside monstrosity has, as you say, followed that of the Chadwell Heath variant ...

    ... but there has been no progress with the excavations and barriers there since my previous report - and, yes, I do look 'down the hole' to see what, if anything, has changed - so the entire width of what would have been the original foot-way is now obstructed with no work being done to justify it!

    Strangely, there is an existing black-sheathed cable crossing the end of the trench closest to the kerb which looks suspiciously like an electrical supply cable of the size/type used for supplying street lighting/traffic signs - including other structures like the one it passes under ...

    ... so why is there such a big excavation ...?

  5. Well, the situation hadn't changed on Saturday night - ignoring the obvious accumulation of rubbish in the intervening period - but, to my surprise, on Sunday night the trench had been back-filled and the paving reinstated!

    Not that it improved pedestrian flow as all the barriers were still in place!

    No idea of the situation yesterday but today, Tuesday, the barriers had gone when I looked a couple of hours ago ...

    ... still no 'phone and, as I have no reason to hang around for dusk, so close to the longest day, I have no idea what happens after dark ...

  6. And there's me thinking you were the Night Bus?

  7. Ah, but when the night bus is the end, the beginning is much later, if you see what I mean ...