As you may have heard, BT is applying to install ‘Street Hubs’ throughout the UK – including many in Norwich. This is being reported in the local press as if it’s an uncontroversial ‘good thing’: predictably, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Why are we objecting to the BT Street Hubs?
A BT Street Hub is three metres high and flanked by two brightly-lit digital advertising screens. The controversial hubs also have WiFi connectivity which has been linked with alleged surveillance capability (i.e. the hubs can track you as you move through the city), call facility, data capture technology and surveillance capacity (they can count the number of pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists…). More in the BT Street Hub product info document.
Do we want BT’s “Digital Street Community” – or do we want our communities, with ad-free streets, thriving local businesses and the ability to walk without navigating past massive metal structures shouting at us with giant corporate advertisements?
How can I object?
It takes 5-10 minutes to lodge an objection and if more of us object, the Council is more likely to be able to overthrow the application. Here’s how to go about it:
- Go to the Planning Portal at Norwich City Council: https://planning.norwich.gov.uk/online-applications/
- Type in the Reference number (scroll down for full list):
- 21/01527/F All Saints Green Norwich
- 21/01525/F St Giles St Norwich etc
- Click “Make a comment” and add your objection.
Here are some points to include:
- The Council’s Planning Department can refuse the screen on the grounds of ‘amenity’, so be sure to mention factors such as how the screen would cause an amenity loss and a detriment to the quality of the area. This could include the addition of a freestanding unit causing clutter in a busy pedestrianised area, the contribution to an area already saturated with advertising infrastructure, the addition of a visually unattractive unit causing detriment to the visual quality of the street.
- Your personal story: why does this affect you? Why are you taking the time to object?
- Although it is not currently considered ‘material grounds’ for planning refusal, each BT Hub unit has two large digital screens. These use a significant amount of energy and contribute to light pollution, which is not compatible with the Council’s declaration of Climate and Ecological emergencies.
- In 2021, Norwich City Council passed an Ethical Advertising Motion – these hubs, each with 2 large display screens capable of showing an advert every 10 seconds (and only 5% of the screen time allowed for local authority curated content) are starkly against the spirit of his motion.
- The imposition of advertising into public space has a significant impact on public wellbeing.
Note! We have so far found 12 applications on the council’s planning portal, but this only relates to 6 sites (there are 2 applications for each site, an ‘F’ and an ‘A’), so we expect more to appear soon. Although it takes 5-10 minutes to do an application you can obviously re-use the same text to do additional objections much quicker. We don’t expect you to object to all 12 (so far!) applications, although that would be amazing.
It’s more important to object to the F applications, as this is for the full unit, whereas the A just refers to the advertising element.
21/01527/F & 21/01534/A – BT Kiosk Outside John Lewis All Saints Green
21/01524/F & 21/01532/A – Telephone Box Adjacent To 195 And 197 Plumstead Road
21/01525/F & 21/01529/A – Street Cabinet Opposite 13 St Giles Street
21/01522/F & 21/01523/A – Footpath Adjacent To 1 Woodgrove Parade Lilburne Avenue NR3 3NS
21/01531/F & 21/01533/A – Footpath Adjacent To 78 – 80 Colman Road NR4 7EH
21/01530/F & 21/01535/A– Telephone Box Outside 1 Brigg Street