Call goes out to BT not to block precinct space
29th May 2019
PLANS to turn part of the precinct in Tunbridge Wells town centre into a more ‘usable space’ are being hampered by a string of nine phone boxes.
Calverley Road, the part of the precinct that runs from Camden Road to Fiveways, is expected to become a more permanent home to the Farmers’ Market, once its temporary tenure in Market Square expires next year.
In addition, a Tunbridge Wells borough councillor believes the pedestrianised road outside Royal Victoria Place is being under-used and could become the site for a whole range of activities.
Mark Ellis, Liberal Democrat councillor for St John’s, explained: “We need to rethink how we use our retail spaces. A prime example is Calverley Road, which is the perfect location to create a new, open community space.
“Once cleared of clutter, and with the assistance of our new Business Improvement District, the space could easily be used for a series of professionally run markets and events, attracting people into the centre of our town and helping the surrounding retail shops and restaurants.”
The Head of the Business Improvement District, Karen Pengelly, agrees with Cllr Ellis’s ideas, but says any plans to use the pedestrianised road are being hampered by the existing street furniture, especially nine BT phone boxes.
“There may be a need for one, but not nine,” said Ms Pengelly, who is also Royal Tunbridge Wells Together’s Town Centre Manager.
“BT come every two weeks to place new adverts in them – they don’t even empty them because nobody uses them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single person make a phone call in them.”
She added that she believed BT were using the call boxes as low-cost advertising hoardings.
“They use them as revenue earners advertising their online services. They all have ads on them,” she said. “They are also an eyesore. They have never been cleaned. They are dirty and getting in the way of this becoming a useable space.”
She said she was going to speak with council planners to see what could be done about removing the excessive number of call boxes.
A BT spokesperson said they were removing two of the offending call boxes but there were no plans to remove any more.
She said: “We’ve placed an advisory removal notice inside two payphone kiosks in Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells, near to the junction with Mount Pleasant Road.”
She admitted calls from phone boxes had fallen by around 90 per cent in the last 10 years but the company had a universal service obligation to provide a certain number.
She said: “We take a number of factors into account before deciding whether to remove a payphone.
“Before removing any of our public telephones we check the location of the nearest one to it. If there isn’t another one within 400 metres then we’ll post a full consultation notice inside the box and contact the local authority’s planning team to begin the statutory required consultation.”