BT threatens Bristol with 27 new advertising monoliths

Once again BT have hit Bristol City Council with proposals for several new ‘BT Street Hubs’, across the city including central Bristol, Stokes Croft, Old Market and Gloucester Road. 

We are now focusing on applications with LESS THAN 10 objections: 22/04747/A, 22/04499/A, 22/04842/A, 22/04840/A, 22/04668/A, 22/05026/A, 22/05028/A, 22/05035/A, 22/05037/A, 22/05039/A.

Type one reference at a time into the Council’s planning portal and click ‘Make a Comment’ to object.

The controversial hubs, which BT says “help future proof the street by making them smarter, safer, and more sustainable” (errrrm) provide Wi-Fi connectivity, free calls, data capture technology, and surveillance, whilst adding to the ongoing commercialisation of our public spaces and unnecessary consumption of energy. 

Just yesterday, Ofgem announced that the UK face a ‘significant risk’ of energy shortages this winter. As we face the possibility of power cuts with potential loss of electricity for hospitals, schools and homes, do we really need more advertising screens using up energy? Each of these smaller ad screens uses the same electricity as 3 UK homes.

Smashed up in London
Differently smashed up in Southampton

Even by BT’s own admission, the hubs have been linked to anti-social behaviour. In one London borough, “drug dealers arranged 20,000 sales on just five BT InLink phone kiosks” in just 15 weeks. (‘InLink’ was the street hubs predecessor which were roundly dismissed in Bristol in 2018.)

Residents have also raised concerns over the surveillance capacities. BT claims that these cameras can be switched on or off at any point, and that this wouldn’t be done without public consent. However, the point remains that this surveillance, from both the cameras attached to the hubs, and from the data gathering from phones connected to the free Wi-Fi (which could also be used to track the movements of its users) only serve to sink us deeper into a Capitalist Orwellian hellscape. Watch this unbelievable video that shows the extent of how digital ad screen technology can track us and target us outside our homes.

To add insult to injury, BT has applied not for the usual 5 years planning permission, but for 10, from 30/08/22 to 30/08/2032, which does not allow for potential changes made to the cityscape in that time. 

Strength lies in numbers, however, and if we can get enough objections to the planning proposals, we can stop them!

Did you see us on our ‘Big Box Tour’ on Gloucester Rd lately?

Community objection works: In 2018, BT proposed to install 25 similar ‘InLink’ units across Bristol. Following dozens of public comments expressing alarm at the plans, planning officers at Bristol City Council rejected all 25 applications. 

HOW TO OBJECT:

🔮 Go to the Planning Portal at Bristol City Council: www.bristol.gov.uk/planning-and-building-regulations/look-at-and-track-planning-applications

✍️ Type in a Reference Number: 

  • 22/04747/A, Union Street, entrance to Broadmead
  • 22/04499/A, Outside ex Debenhams, The Horsefair BS1 3JE
  • 22/04842/A, Outside Brewers Fayre, Lewins Mead
  • 22/04840/A, Next to the Bay Horse, near Bridewell Street
  • 22/04668/A, 84 Broadmead, BS1 3DW
  • 22/05026/A, 2-4 Broadmead, outside Itsu
  • 22/05028/A, 51-53 Merchant Street, Broadmead
  • 22/05035/A, The Horsefair, outside McDonalds
  • 22/05037/A, Bond Street, just east of Bear Pit
  • 22/05039/A 52-62 Bond Street
  • … please see full list of references below.

🛑 Click “Make a Comment” and write about why you object. Here’s some points to include in your objection – it doesn’t have to be long:

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?

Unnecessary energy usage: 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.

The imposition of advertising into public space has a significant impact on public wellbeing.

Whose streets? BT have applied for consent for 10 years (Aug 2022 – Aug 2032) but usually consent is granted for 5 years after which time the structure could be removed. You could ask the council to review this and ensure it would be a maximum of 5 years in line with other advertising consents.

Full list of planning references: 22/04338/A, 22/04340/A, 22/04342/A, 22/04501/A, 22/04505/A, 22/04503/A, 22/04745/A, 22/04747/A, 22/04499/A, 22/04497/A, 22/04743/A, 22/04493/A, 22/04495/A, 22/04507/A, 22/04846/A, 22/04844/A, 22/04842/A, 22/04840/A, 22/04668/A, 22/05032/A, 22/05026/A, 22/05037/A, 22/05028/A, 22/05030/A, 22/05035/A.
One of the proposed Street Hubs on Gloucester Road (22/04501/A)
Proposed street hub unit near the Hippodrome (22/04342/A)
Pavement blocking ad machines. (Street Hub in Norwich)

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