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Walworth locals rage against BT advertising board, calling it an eye-sore which is dangerous to pedestrians and encourages drug use

Locals fear that a 75-inch LCD advertising board will be an intrusive eye-sore, endanger pedestrians and encourage drug use, writes Herbie Russell…

BT have applied to build the street hub – an integrated phone, wifi hub and advert screen – outside Marks and Spencer on Walworth Road. 

The plans are opposed by the Walworth Society, a community group established in 2011, that aims “to be a voice for people in Walworth”.

Jeremy Leach, the group’s chair, said: “We were very concerned to see this application and yet another attempt to sneak extremely intrusive LCD advertising into the Walworth Road Conservation Area.

“The adverts are great for the profits of big companies and really bad for the places that get landed with them.”

The group argue that disabled and visually impaired pedestrians are most likely to be hindered by the sudden encroachment on space.

A BT spokesperson said: “The unit has the same footprint as the existing kiosk, therefore no additional pavement will be required.”

As the hub provides free calls, there are also fears it could be used by drug users to contact their dealers.

In 2018, the IET reported that, over a 105-day period, drug dealers had organised 20,000 sales on five BT InLink phone kiosks in Tower Hamlets.

In their written objection to the plans, the group said: “In an area where meetings of Safer Neighbourhood teams are dominated by concerns over drug taking and drug dealing, the use of these devices to facilitate such activity is extremely concerning.”

“The object is a source of danger to pedestrians who will be uncertain as to who or what may be lurking on the other side of them especially after dark.”

An example of a BT Street Hub.

He also expressed concern at their energy usage as an investigation by the Guardian newspaper found that similar-sized advertising boards, although not BT’s specifically, can consume as much as 11,501kWh per year. 

A BT spokesperson said: “Our Street Hub 2.0 units are powered 100 per cent by renewable energy.”

If the hub were installed, it would mean removing two existing phone kiosks, with the group supporting the removal of one of them.

The plans.

The Walworth Society will be meeting online on Wednesday, January 19 to discuss the planning proposal. To participate in the Zoom meeting, click here. Use meeting ID 857 6431 9605, and passcode 627460.

The council is expected to reach a decision by February 3 2022. 

In response a BT spokesperson said: “Over 400 existing Street Hubs are already delivering a wide range of economic, social and technology benefits to communities and local councils up and down the country – from connecting local residents, businesses and visitors to free ultrafast Wi-Fi, to ensuring that people can contact the emergency services or charity helplines in times of need.

“Our new Street Hubs introduce upgraded features such as the functionality to provide environment monitoring for local authorities, the ability to boost 4G/5G mobile coverage and free screen time to local authorities to help promote local community services. BT recently announced plans to roll out more than 200 Street Hub 2.0 units to new sites across the UK over the next year.”

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