Wandsworth approves digital hub plans

Wandsworth Council has approved plans to replace phone boxes with digital communication hubs on Northcote Road.

The council has approved planning applications from InLinkUK/BT that will see the removal of five decrepit and obsolete phone kiosks in Northcote Road and their replacement with two multi-media hubs offering local people free calls and free internet access. An identical application for a site in Garratt Lane was also approved.

These three new multi-media hubs are among 20 that are planned across the borough.

According to InLinkUK/BT their one gigabyte download speeds will deliver “the fastest and most robust public wi-fi network in the UK”, offering speeds up to 85 times faster than “standard broadband”.

People will also be able to make free landline and mobile phone calls – especially important for those on limited pay-as-you-go plans or out of credit – and also for those whose phones are out of charge. It also has a facility that allows people without phones to dial 999 in an emergency.

Digital screens on the hubs will display local maps and weather information for visitors alongside travel information from TfL about bus, tube and rail services. The screens are also expected to carry local information from organisations like the council, police and NHS, plus commercial advertising which will pay the cost of this free public service.

The units feature two waterproof USB ports which can be used to charge up mobile phones and tablets, including those with the latest “fast charge” technology. This means these latest generation phones could get a 10 per cent charge in under three minutes.

Removing the redundant old phone kiosks should also remove needless street clutter from pavements. The modern replacements are much thinner and sleeker and require a smaller footprint than the phone kiosks they are replacing thus freeing up pavement space for pedestrians.

InLinkUK/BT plans to install around 75 of these new hi-tech units in total across Wandsworth meaning this latest on-street technology is likely to soon be available in virtually every neighbourhood in the borough. In each case they will replace redundant phone kiosks.

Chairman of the planning committee Cllr Will Sweet said: ““We think these new multi-media centres will be a much more welcome sight on Northcote Road and Garratt Lane than the rather unkempt and largely redundant pay phone kiosks they are replacing, none of which features the famous traditional red Gilbert Scott design.

“In planning terms, a less obtrusive replacement fits in far better with the streetscape and will reduce street clutter and pavement obstructions in this vibrant and much loved shopping and leisure destination.

“And to ensure they are not overly conspicuous at night time they will be dimmed so they do not cause distraction.”

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