BT’s new freedom to site fibre broadband equipment without planning permission has landed it in hot water with residents of a Hampshire town.
BT placed the five foot tall green cabinet in the middle of a pavement in Romsey’s The Hundred conservation area, leaving town and borough councillors furious that they were not consulted in advance.
A five-year relaxation of planning rules means BT Openreach only has to consult local authorities on new broadband cabinets and poles, but doesn’t need their permission.
“It’s an eyesore and shouldn’t be in such a prominent position in a conservation area,” councillor Clive Collier told the Romsey Advertiser.
“It’s deplorable that BT has shown so little concern for such a sensitive area when there are more appropriate locations available nearby.”
BT has promised to paint the cabinet black, but said it had liaised with Test Valley Borough Council planners to agree the ‘best cost-effective location’ for cabinets.
The new technology will deliver BT’s FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband at up to 76Mbps, partly-funded by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK scheme.
Test Valley Borough Council said there was no need for planning permission, but it would now be writing to the cabinet installers to investigate an alternative location for the cabinet.
The cabinet’s location has been criticised by local businesses and Romsey Town Council’s town centre manager, Mark Edgerley. “The BT cabinet is the right equipment in the wrong place,” he said.
The Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme plans to reach 98 per cent of homes and businesses with superfast broadband over 24Mbps with its BDUK project by 2017, with 56 more cabinets due to be upgraded or installed by September 2014.
Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey, called for a better design and more consultation with the community.
She said: “Of course we all want to see faster broadband and I welcome the improvements in speed we will have, but that does not excuse an insensitively sited box such as this one.”
This isn’t the first time BT has stepped on the aesthetic sensibilities of locals – back in May 2012, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea issued some strongly worded complaints to BT over the siting of a street cabinet, only for the two parties to kiss and make up 10 months later.
Update: We’ve tracked down the location of the cabinet on Google Street View – as the pictures were taken in 2011, there’s no cabinet there, but you can work out where it is by comparing Google’s map with our picture. Do you think it’s a silly place for a cabinet? Is it in the way or are the people of Romsey just kicking up a fuss? Let us know in the comments.