BT must withdraw all InLink kiosk permitted development planning applications

Adrian Short · 13 February 2019

BT must withdraw all its permitted development planning applications for InLink kiosks. The High Court has ruled that dual-use advertising and phone kiosks cannot benefit from the privileged permitted development rights (as reported by the Telegraph) that ensure that councils cannot refuse permission in principle for essential telecoms equipment. BT has abused its privileged planning rights by allowing a third-party company, InLink Ltd, to piggyback on its Electronic Communications Code registration to apply for and install a network of hundreds of kiosks that are principally advertising screens under BT’s name.

BT must comply with the law by withdrawing all current permitted development applications and reapplying for full planning permission as required. This would enable councils to decide InLink applications on the full range of material planning considerations as they see appropriate.

BT must also withdraw all current planning appeals against refusal of permitted development applications.

The High Court’s judgment is timely in the light of the Metropolitan Police’s ongoing objections to all InLink kiosk applications in London due to their tendency to attract crime and antisocial behaviour. Under permitted development rules, councils cannot take crime and antisocial behaviour issues into account in their decisions for such kiosks. Calls to mobile phones from InLink kiosks in Tower Hamlets are currently blocked after the police logged an average of 38 drug dealing calls per kiosk per day in the area. By withdrawing their permitted development applications and reapplying for full planning permission, councils will be able to take the police’s views into account, which they cannot currently.

Councils that have reluctantly granted permitted development applications for InLink kiosks should consider using their powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to revoke planning permission for unbuilt kiosks as they see expedient.

If BT persists in abusing its privileged planning rights to enable InLink Ltd to install advertising kiosks, Ofcom should review its registration under the Electronic Communications Code to ensure that public confidence in the planning system is maintained.

Notes

  1. Current BT InLink planning applications across the UK are listed on my website kiosks.adrianshort.org.

  2. InLink Ltd, trading as InLinkUK, is 50% owned by Intersection, a “smart cities” and advertising company headquartered inside Sidewalk Labs’ New York City office, and 50% owned by Primesight, a UK outdoor advertising company. Sidewalk Labs is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Dan Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs’ CEO, is chairman and “overall leader” of Intersection.

  3. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) recently consulted on a proposed change to planning law to remove permitted development rights for phoneboxes. The proposal was supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Local Government Association.