When was the last time you used a public phone box? I tried about a year ago when my phone had run out of battery, but it didn’t work and I had a mini breakdown in public, but really, nobody uses them anymore, do they? Everybody has a mobile, and so there really isn’t much need for them unless you are particularly disgusting and also have a weak bladder.
But up in Newcastle, their numbers are increasing exponentially. Despite the popular opinion, people in Newcastle do actually own mobile phones, so why the sudden increase? Well, it’s all down to the nefarious tactics of the advertising industry - it’s all very sneaky-snoo, and it’s pissing off the residents no-end.
Essentially, to install a public phone box, companies only need a licence from Ofcom, rather than having to obtain full planning permission. The council can object, but appeals can be launched to the Government Planning Inspectorate. In Newcastle, the current situation stands at 60 appeals, 13 of which have been dismissed.
So why the desperate want to install a phone box that nobody is going to use? Well, to cover it in adverts, of course. A nice plinth in a highly visible place, plastered with Big Macs and laptops and Yorkshire Tea - job well and truly done. Loophole well and truly exploited.
Councillor George Allison said:
“Private companies are just trying to use these phone boxes for advertising across every city in the country.
“Initially when they were being rejected by councils there were no appeals, but now they are appealing every one of them.
“It is absolutely crazy. They are telephone boxes, but they aren’t being used for that - it is just for the advertising board.
“Most of the advertising that gets put up needs to have planning permission - we can control the kind of advert that goes on through planning rules. But with the telephone boxes, the advertisers can basically do what they want.
“If the council says no, then that should be it as far as I am concerned. It should not be going through the Planning Inspectorate, that’s barking.
“It is all about making money, not what is right for the people of this city.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) earlier this year released figures showing Newcastle had 95 applications for new boxes in 2017, compared with just one in 2015. People are cottoning onto this handy shortcut, it seems.
And it’s not just in Newcastle either, these ‘Trojan’ phone boxes are popping up in Birmingham, too, so expect to see them near you soon.
You’ll wake up one morning and immediately order some trainers online - that’s because there’s a phone box in your bed, mate. Phone boxes installed in your literal eyes. Adverts in the grey flesh of your brain. Welcome to the future.
(Images: Arthur Osipyan/Getty)