HC Deb 26 June 2000 vol 352 cc368-9W
Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how long a local authority planning department has in which to object to the proposed installation of(a) telephone booths, (b) telephone boxes and (c) information kiosks; [126283]

(2) what planning powers are available to local authorities in respect of work by telecommunications operators to convert public telephones to IT kiosks. [126285]

Ms Beverley Hughes

Certain telecommunications operators licensed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under the Telecommunications Act 1984 (the 1984 Act) are granted special rights to assist in the installation and maintenance of their systems. These powers, which are set out in Schedule 2 to the 1984 Act—the "Telecommunications Code"—are further governed by provisions in operators' licences and Town and Country Planning legislation, which impose exceptions and conditions on the use of these powers.

Under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, as amended, (GPDO) code system operators have permitted development rights for the installation, alteration or replacement of a range of telecommunication apparatus.

As regards the installation of public call boxes, which include telephone booths and telephone boxes, these PDRs are subject to a prior approval procedure under the GPDO. Operators must give the local planning authority the opportunity to say whether they wish to approve, within 28 days, details of the siting and appearance of the installation. An authority may refuse such approval, if they consider this to be justified.

As regards information kiosks, their installation by operators licensed to do so would enjoy permitted development rights under the GPDO. However, where it is intended that the kiosk included a voice telephony service it is likely that it would be treated as a public call box for the purposes of the GPDO and the prior approval procedure outlined above would apply.

A local authority has the power to withdraw permitted development rights by making a Direction under Article 4 of the GPDO. These powers should be used only in exceptional circumstances and are intended for use where there is a real and specific threat to the proper planning or amenities of a limited area.

Under the terms of its licence, an operator wishing to install an information kiosk which did not include a voice telephony service would have to give the local planning authority 28 days' notice of their intention to do so.

As regards the conversion of public call boxes to information kiosks, alteration or replacement of such boxes by a code system operator would require prior approval under the 28 day procedure outlined above. Whether conversion to an information kiosk constituted alteration or replacement would depend on the circumstances of the case. If it did not do so, permitted development rights would apply without a requirement for prior approval.

If a company has not had the Telecommunications Code applied to it under the 1984 Act they will not have the associated permitted development rights under the GPDO. If such a company wishes to install a telephone booth, a telephone box or information kiosk they would be required to submit an application for planning permission to the local planning authority.

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